A thought-provoking tale about navigating race and immigration issues.

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DON'T ASK ME WHERE I'M FROM

An inner-city Boston student is accepted into a high school desegregation program.

Liliana’s dad’s absence has been occupying her mind ever since he disappeared at the end of summer. This isn’t the first time he has gone away, but this time feels different: Her mom keeps having hushed, frantic phone conversations and won’t tell her where he is. Even more stress is added to Liliana’s life when she is pulled out of class by the vice principal and told that her acceptance into the Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity (METCO) program means she’ll be commuting 20 miles to a predominantly white school in the suburbs. When she arrives at Westburg High, Liliana is surprised to see some other METCO students, like her peer mentor, Genesis, or the basketball team’s star, Rayshawn, completely immersed in the school’s academic and cultural activities. After finding out the truth about her dad’s absence, Liliana begins to analyze her own identity and biases in order to survive and excel at Westburg. While the aspiring young writer theme feels tired at times, De Leon’s debut deals tactfully with the tensions that race relations and the stress of keeping family secrets can bring on teenagers, producing an honest and empathetic portrayal. Liliana’s mother is from El Salvador and her father's from Guatemala.

A thought-provoking tale about navigating race and immigration issues. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3824-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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