An intense, often exasperating, sometimes-thrilling series opener.

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SHADE ME

From the Shade Me series , Vol. 1

An 18-year-old girl decides to investigate an attempted murder on her own.

Nikki has synesthesia, which causes her to see colors mixed in with letters, numbers, and the environment, which is why she answers school queen-bee Peyton’s orange-colored phone call: it’s an emergency. The movie producer’s daughter has been beaten nearly to death, and Nikki’s was the only number on Peyton’s phone—though Nikki hardly knows her. Curious, Nikki becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Peyton. She continually rebuffs Chris, the detective assigned to the case, who pleads with her to be careful and to give him what information she might have. Naturally, Nikki places herself in ever more dangerous positions, but although she’s an expert in martial arts, that might not be enough. Brown builds suspense as well as frustration, as Nikki makes better progress in the case than does Chris but blithely withholds and even destroys crucial evidence even as she puts herself in increasing danger. Nikki’s intransigence appears to be entirely plot-driven, and the mounting stupidity of her decisions may infuriate readers. The story also simply abandons two subplots, the murder of Nikki’s mother and the former boyfriend who wants her back.

An intense, often exasperating, sometimes-thrilling series opener. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-232443-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener.

THE SELECTION

From the Selection series , Vol. 1

It's a bad sign when you can figure out the elevator pitch for a novel from the get-go.

In this case, if it wasn't "The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games," it was pretty darn close. In a rigid, caste-based dystopian future, Illéa’s Prince Maxon has come of age and needs to marry. One girl will be chosen by lottery from each province to travel to the Capital and live in the palace so the prince can make his choice. The winning girl will become queen, and her family will all be elevated to Ones. America, a Five, doesn't want to join the Selection because she is in love with Aspen, a Six. But pressure from both her family and Aspen causes her to relent, and the rest is entirely predictable. She's chosen, she goes to the palace, she draws the ire of the other girls with her beauty and the interest of the prince with her spunky independence. Prince Maxon is much nicer than she expected, but she will remain loyal to Aspen. Maybe. Shabby worldbuilding complements the formulaic plot. Scant explanation is made for the ructions that have created the current political reality, and the palace is laughably vulnerable to rebels from both the North and the South, neither of whom are given any credible motives. But there's lots of descriptions of dresses.

A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-205993-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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