A keenly crafted thriller.

TIME BOMB

When a suburban high school is devastated by a bombing, a diverse group of teens gathers to find a way out.

Minor connections pre-exist among the group: biracial (black/white) Tad is on the football team with the popular Frankie, a white boy, and the pair may be a little more than just friends. Latino Z has been pegged as the class ne’er-do-well; Palestinian-American Rashid, an observant Muslim, feels extra conspicuous now that his beard has started growing. Of course, everyone knows the white daughter of a U.S. senator, the perfectly popular Diana. The wildcard is olive-skinned Cassandra, the new kid in school. When word reaches the gang that the bomber may still be inside the building, tensions rise and the small bonds just being forged threaten to disintegrate. The third-person perspective shifts chapter to chapter, letting readers into each of the character’s heads. Some of the characters are fuller than others (Z is frustratingly thin), but through their eyes the author lays out the geography of the school before the bombing and smartly paces the aftermath. Charbonneau makes the bold move of letting readers—though not all the characters—know who the bomber is right away. This pivots the suspense from a whodunit to a survival tale, and the author effectively charts the action, taking time to allow the kids to discuss current events and the perils of false assumptions.

A keenly crafted thriller. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-41670-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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