A lukewarm story about finding family and starting over

TORN AWAY

Jersey Cameron has lived her whole life in Elizabeth, Mo., where the weather is unpredictable, and complaining about it is a full-time job.

When Jersey’s mother and little sister perish in a tornado, Jersey finds herself rejected by her guilt-ridden, emotionally paralyzed stepfather. He sends her to live in a house full of hostile strangers comprising her alcoholic biological father, who left Jersey and her mother when Jersey was a baby; his boorish wife and her two spoiled daughters (the Cinderella connection won’t be lost on readers); and Jersey’s heartless grandparents. Jersey is immediately put to work washing everyone else’s dishes and is made to sleep on a sofa on the porch (sleeping among the ashes must have been considered too obvious). After a particularly nasty fight with the evil stepsisters, Jersey runs away and finds herself with another set of strangers: her mother’s estranged parents. Readers may find themselves wanting to throttle Jersey by the middle of the book; while Brown starts off doing a wonderful job depicting the grief and depression that comes with such a catastrophic loss, Jersey ends up sounding whiny. The novel’s didacticism—Jersey continually reflects on how good she had it before the tornado, regretting sharp words she can’t take back—also causes it to lose its edge.

A lukewarm story about finding family and starting over . (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-24553-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Will both entertain and encourage reflection.

CINDERELLA IS DEAD

In Mersailles, “Cinderella” is more than just a fairy tale: It’s the basis for a harsh monarch’s throttlehold on his kingdom.

Sophia is turning 16, the age at which young women must attend King Manford’s annual ball, at which they are scrutinized by and married off to male attendees. Any young woman who has not been claimed after her third ball is destined to spend the rest of her days engaged in hard labor. But being chosen can be its own curse in a society where domestic violence is common. Sophia is a beautiful Black girl in love with dark-haired Erin, one of her best friends. While racial diversity is a natural part of this world, the same acceptance does not exist for those who defy rigid gender norms: Anything other than heterosexual desire is strictly forbidden, and while Sophia wishes to escape as a couple, Erin is too fearful. After fleeing the ball, Sophia stumbles across Cinderella’s mausoleum, hidden in the woods. There she meets rebellious Constance, an attractive young red-haired woman with a very personal motivation for sabotaging the monarchy. As the two grew closer—and sparks fly—they discover secrets that could end Manford’s cruel reign. This promising debut deals with themes around rebellion and empowerment as well as the toll that rejecting the status quo can take on relationships. The atmospheric setting is a particular strength, and the twists and turns will keep readers in suspense.

Will both entertain and encourage reflection. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0387-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

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