Overall, a promising book that would have benefited from another draft or two

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INCARNATE

From the Incarnate series , Vol. 1

For thousands of years in Range, the same one million souls have been born, lived, died and been reborn. But when Ciana died, she wasn't reborn: Ana was born, for the first time.

Now 18, Ana is leaving the mother who hated her behind. When an encounter with the terrifying sylph drives her to leap off a cliff into a lake, she is certain that her new, young soul will soon be an expired one. Kindly Sam rescues her and takes her to the city of Heart, where she hopes to find answers to the questions of her origin. There, she must battle both the ingrained sense of low worth instilled by her hostile mother and the suspicions of the oldsouls. Never fear: Debut novelist Meadows gives musical prodigy Ana a mentor that is the society's most noted musician, the preternaturally wise, good and—oh yes, sexy—Sam. The basic concept is a fascinating one, but it gets muddled in delivery. Worldbuilding is particularly weak: Range is populated by both creatures of European mythology and regular North American animals, but the former seem to have been thrown in largely to be set dressing and a convenient threat. Perhaps all will be explained in subsequent volumes, to which this effectively serves as a 374-page prologue. Moreover, Ana's characterization is notably uneven (the emotional scars from her upbringing emerge when the plot needs them), and 21st-century colloquialisms sound sour notes against the trying-to-be-otherworldly setting.

Overall, a promising book that would have benefited from another draft or two . (Fantasy/romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-206075-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2012

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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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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