Readers are advised to stick to the original.

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SASS & SERENDIPITY

Billed as a retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility but reading more like “sisters on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” this potentially buoyant comic novel sinks under the weight of its unwieldy high concept.

Dad’s departure, leaving Mom to cope on a small salary without child support, turned Gabby, 17, into a grumpily dutiful misanthrope who’s given up on love. She helps at home, works a miserable job and studies hard, then vents her frustrations on her irresponsible sister and faithful, torch-bearing Mule. Hiding a secret, Gabby repeatedly rejects overtures from handsome, wealthy Prentiss, who’s gone out of his way to help her family. At the other pole of emotional dysfunction, immature and self-centered Daphne, 15, carries her fantasies of finding true love with a boy she’s barely met to scary extremes. Ziegler’s affectionate portrait of small-town Texas life and sharply observed secondary characters, such as Sheri who “always gave compliments as if she were complaining,” bring the story to intermittent life. With their intense emotions permanently set to 11, though, the exasperating sisters have little in common with Elinor and Marianne. Austen’s attention, humor and insight weren’t given to deep emotions in themselves, but to how we govern them—and what happens when we don’t.

Readers are advised to stick to the original. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-73898-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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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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This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion.

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LONG WAY DOWN

After 15-year-old Will sees his older brother, Shawn, gunned down on the streets, he sets out to do the expected: the rules dictate no crying, no snitching, and revenge.

Though the African-American teen has never held one, Will leaves his apartment with his brother’s gun tucked in his waistband. As he travels down on the elevator, the door opens on certain floors, and Will is confronted with a different figure from his past, each a victim of gun violence, each important in his life. They also force Will to face the questions he has about his plan. As each “ghost” speaks, Will realizes how much of his own story has been unknown to him and how intricately woven they are. Told in free-verse poems, this is a raw, powerful, and emotional depiction of urban violence. The structure of the novel heightens the tension, as each stop of the elevator brings a new challenge until the narrative arrives at its taut, ambiguous ending. There is considerable symbolism, including the 15 bullets in the gun and the way the elevator rules parallel street rules. Reynolds masterfully weaves in textured glimpses of the supporting characters. Throughout, readers get a vivid picture of Will and the people in his life, all trying to cope with the circumstances of their environment while expressing the love, uncertainty, and hope that all humans share.

This astonishing book will generate much needed discussion. (Verse fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3825-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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