Thought-provoking and insightful.

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LOVE AND FIRST SIGHT

Sundquist (We Should Hang Out Sometime, 2014) explores blindness and sight in his first novel.

Aspiring to be "the Stevie Wonder of journalism," white, congenitally blind Will Porter is confident that mainstreaming into high school at 16 will be a snap. But things get awkward when he falls for Cecily, an artistic, evasive white girl with a knack for explaining visual concepts. Soon, Will learns that he has the opportunity to gain eyesight via experimental retinal stem-cell implants. His difficult decision sensitively explores disability and its influence on identity. The author's research shows; there are frequent explanations of eyesight and its relationship to the brain. That information is critical for understanding the disorientation and frustration that Will experiences upon gaining eyesight. Sight requires him to learn colors, shapes, and perspective as if he's just been born—which, in a sense, he has. Such surprises as racial differences (when he sees African-American pal Whitford for the first time he thinks, “What’s the fuss about?”), paintings, and a "counterintuitive" snowstorm prompt interesting reflections, and his new perspective is tested when he realizes that Cecily's appearance significantly differs from his cheerfully nerdy new friends' descriptions of her. The juxtaposition of blindness with (not) judging by appearances is common, but the author gives depth to the trope by highlighting the betrayal Will feels at the exploitation of his blindness. The resolution is optimistic yet realistically open-ended.

Thought-provoking and insightful. (author's note) (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30535-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener.

THE SELECTION

From the Selection series , Vol. 1

It's a bad sign when you can figure out the elevator pitch for a novel from the get-go.

In this case, if it wasn't "The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games," it was pretty darn close. In a rigid, caste-based dystopian future, Illéa’s Prince Maxon has come of age and needs to marry. One girl will be chosen by lottery from each province to travel to the Capital and live in the palace so the prince can make his choice. The winning girl will become queen, and her family will all be elevated to Ones. America, a Five, doesn't want to join the Selection because she is in love with Aspen, a Six. But pressure from both her family and Aspen causes her to relent, and the rest is entirely predictable. She's chosen, she goes to the palace, she draws the ire of the other girls with her beauty and the interest of the prince with her spunky independence. Prince Maxon is much nicer than she expected, but she will remain loyal to Aspen. Maybe. Shabby worldbuilding complements the formulaic plot. Scant explanation is made for the ructions that have created the current political reality, and the palace is laughably vulnerable to rebels from both the North and the South, neither of whom are given any credible motives. But there's lots of descriptions of dresses.

A probably harmless, entirely forgettable series opener. (Dystopian romance. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-205993-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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