An uneven read that ultimately misses its mark.

MAYDAY

Even as her own soul hovers in the “middle” space, her body barely clinging to life in a hospital room, 18-year-old Crow’s thoughts are consumed with protecting her sister.

When given the chance to go on a “walkabout”—an opportunity to revisit her life and make things right—Crow learns that there may have been another side to the people and events that defined her. The only catch is that she must return as someone other than herself. It’s an interesting-enough premise, and the first half of the book will likely live up to readers’ expectations. A skillfully crafted and strikingly bleak Minnesota is the perfect backdrop for Crow’s desperate attempts to save her sister from their stepfather’s lascivious eye. Their mother’s unwillingness to acknowledge this potential threat is both maddening and chillingly believable. Unfortunately, the second half of the novel falls disappointingly short. Here, Crow’s gender-bending return to her past as a young man muddies the waters and distracts from the plot, as does a disturbing side story about Crow’s relationship with her friend Basil. Frequent references to Crow’s passion for philosophy are not followed through in the text, and Crow’s obsession with protecting her sister never allows adequate room for Crow to truly discover herself.

An uneven read that ultimately misses its mark. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-14-241229-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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Several yards short of a touchdown.

STAY GOLD

A transgender boy starting over at a new school falls hard for a popular cheerleader with a reputation to protect in this debut.

On the first day of senior year, transgender boy Pony locks eyes with cisgender cheerleader Georgia. They both have pasts they want to leave behind. No one at Hillcrest High knows that Pony is transgender, and he intends to keep it that way. Georgia’s last boyfriend shook her trust in boys, and now she’s determined to forget him. As mutual attraction draws them together, Pony and Georgia must decide what they are willing to risk for a relationship. Pony’s best friend, Max, who is also transgender, disapproves of Pony’s choice to live stealth; this disagreement leads to serious conflict in their relationship. Meanwhile, Georgia and Pony behave as if Pony’s trans identity was a secret he was lying to her about rather than private information for him to share of his own volition. The characters only arrive at a hopeful resolution after Pony pays high physical and emotional prices. McSmith places repeated emphasis on the born-in-the-wrong-body narrative when the characters discuss trans identities. Whiteness is situated as the norm, and all main characters are white.

Several yards short of a touchdown. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294317-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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