This soapy melodrama comes off as a tiring chore instead of guilty pleasure reading.

WINTER WHITE

From the The Belles series , Vol. 2

The second book in the series begun by Belles (2012) doesn't improve upon its predecessor; in fact, it only cements the flaws in this limp take on Southern chick lit.   

Even though their father's political campaign is in turmoil, newfound sisters Izzie Scott and Mira Monroe take comfort in the good things in their lives. For Izzie, there's her slowly developing relationship with Brayden; Mira is hoping her friendship with Kellen can become more. Both girls are united in their anger toward their father and his secrets about Izzie's parentage. When cotillion season arrives, Mira can't wait to make her debut, although Izzie is skeptical about whether she belongs amid the white-gloved debutantes. Dylan, Brayden's rebellious sister, plays upon Izzie's self-doubt and acts as a cardboard puppet master, while one-note mean girl Savannah still causes problems for Izzie and Mira. Romances are tested, shallow problems overcome, and a political campaign is nearly derailed, once again because of a bad campaign worker, on the way to yet another "shocking" twist. This novel, told from both Izzie’s and Mira’s third-person perspectives, suffers from neither girl's voice having any life or depth. Character decisions and plot points are telegraphed without subtlety.

This soapy melodrama comes off as a tiring chore instead of guilty pleasure reading. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-09116-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

FIVE FEET APART

A hospital is an unlikely place for first love, but for two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who have a history of extended stays, it proves to be a realistic yet difficult backdrop.

Stella is a high school senior who is dedicated to her CF treatments while Will, a talented artist, is home-schooled and anticipating his 18th birthday, when he will be free to make his own medical decisions. Despite rocky first impressions, Stella and Will make a deal—Will must stick to his treatment regimen, and in return, Stella will model for him while he draws her portrait. This leads to romance, but the combination of CF and Will’s infection with B. cepacia requires that he must stay several feet away from Stella, making physical touch an impossibility. Stella eventually understands why living on the edge can be freeing, and Will begins taking his treatment regimen seriously—leading to their only bit of meaningful development. The novel is written in alternating chapters, creating a few unexpected plot developments, but much of it is predictable and forgettable due to thin characterization. All characters are presumed white except for gay, Colombian CF patient Poe, whose story arc fulfills tired stereotypical tropes and who seems to function mostly as a catalyst for Stella’s growth.

The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3733-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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This royal romp comes together for a strong finish.

TOKYO EVER AFTER

A Japanese American teen searches for her father—who turns out to be the crown prince of Japan.

Kind and “remarkably unremarkable,” Izumi Tanaka enjoys the support of her single mother and high school friends in her hometown of Mount Shasta, California. Her grades are “subpar at best,” and she’s been accepted into decent, but not exclusive, colleges. She acknowledges that her love of Real Housewives and dabbling in baking, while relatable, are not exceptional. After searching for her father and discovering the shocking news of his identity, Izumi is invited to Japan to stay with the royal family for two weeks. Dubbed the Lost Butterfly princess, she is swept up in royal life, complete with all its intrigue. The romance of being a princess—complete with a hot, young bodyguard, Akio—quickly dissipates as tabloids, cultural differences, and a serious blunder at the Japanese prime minister’s wedding take their toll. While the action-packed plot keeps pages turning, inconsistencies in Izumi’s voice are distracting, and her character development lacks cohesion. More slow-building tension would have given her romantic encounters with Akio a bigger payoff. However, the novel hits its stride in the second half as Izumi returns to the States and focuses on her personal growth and evolving relationships with each of her parents, developments that are thoughtfully fleshed out.

This royal romp comes together for a strong finish. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76660-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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