A promising start that gets more right than wrong.

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CHILDREN OF EDEN

From the Children of Eden series , Vol. 1

A teenage girl finds her way through a dystopian society.

In this far-flung future, the world’s environment has collapsed, and the remains of humanity live in Eden, a walled-off society built by the brilliant Aaron Al-Baz, an environmental prophet. Bronze-skinned Rowan is the second-born to her twin brother, Ash, which makes her a major liability. Families are only allowed to have one child, so Rowan’s existence has been carefully hidden all her life. After Rowan’s mother tells her they’ve made arrangements for her to go live with another family, Rowan sneaks out at night and meets Lark, Ash’s best friend. The two girls strike a friendship that kindles toward romance, but before the fire can spread, Rowan’s existence is discovered and the terrified teen flees. Rowan discovers a band of rebels and uncovers a startling truth about Al-Baz. The tropes of the teen dystopia abound, but Graceffa keeps things moving quickly enough that readers won’t mind. Rowan could easily become a navel-gazer, but the story keeps her from descending into insularity. After an intrusively expository start, Rowan’s journey from loner to rebel is smartly paced and cleverly constructed. Her love interests are less developed, and the aftertaste of Eden has a bit of a “been there, done that” feel, but the author injects just enough original thought and spins the yarn fast enough that readers will still have a good time.

A promising start that gets more right than wrong. (Science fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4655-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria/Key Words

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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