Stick with this modernization of Anna Karenina; it pays out in the end.



A slow-burn epic tale of love in modern-day Manhattan high society.

Anna K, a 17-year-old from a wealthy family, falls for the handsome Alexia "Count" Vronsky and strives to stay loyal to her Greenwich, Connecticut, OG boyfriend of three years. Her partying brother, Steven, rebels against their father’s strict, traditional views while his friend Dustin excels in school but is new to affairs of the heart. Kimmie, Steven's girlfriend's sister, tries to be a regular teen after training as an Olympic ice dancing hopeful and also struggles with inexperience in love. These are just the major characters in a cast filled with convoluted relationships. Taking place over the course of a school year, the characters move from party to nightclub, heart-to-heart to Coachella, with their ever changing relationships as the central focus. The distant writing style and pervasive dropping of brand names slow the narrative and weaken its analyses of love, racism, social standing and wealth, sexism, addiction, and mental health. Despite getting off to a slow start, this is a gripping story with sympathetic characters struggling through the mire of modern relationships. The ending, while slightly predictable, comes to a satisfying conclusion. Anna and Steven are Korean and white; Dustin is black, adopted into a white Jewish family; other main characters are white. References to Anna's "exotic" beauty are not contextualized.

Stick with this modernization of Anna Karenina; it pays out in the end. (cast of characters, author’s note) (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23643-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.


After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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