A companionable and realistic rendering of teen courtship.

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BREAKING THE ICE

Two teenagers, each struggling with past romantic failures, haltingly fall in love in this YA romance.

The withdrawn, cerebral teen Fletcher Scott has never been the center of attention, which is fine with him. When he takes a summer civics course, Haley Stevenson, the “Princess of Juniper Falls” and the cheerleading captain at Juniper Falls High, seeks his help on an important class project. She aspires to join the cheer squad at the University of Central Florida, but her unspectacular grades could prove to be a prohibitive barrier. The studious, responsible Fletcher could be her ticket to a higher grade. Initially, their personalities clash; at one point, for example, Fletcher considers Haley the “world’s most infuriating girl.” But slowly, romantic feelings begin to develop between them—first, callow physical infatuation, and then something deeper. However, both are wary about taking things further, due to past romantic betrayals. To make matters worse, Fletcher zealously guards a few secrets: he’s plagued by a serious medical condition and also has an unusual weekend job that he wants to remain unknown. But he and Haley both share an implacable desire for more. Fletcher wants to go from being a benchwarmer on the junior varsity hockey team to an active player on the varsity one, and he’s helped by two seasoned players. Haley not only has college-cheerleading dreams but also aspires to transcend the limitations of being a popular girl. This is the second installment of Cross’ (Off the Ice, 2017) Juniper Falls series, and although some of the characters and plotlines from the previous novel reappear here, the plot is comprehensible as a stand-alone. The author is remarkably well attuned to the adolescent psyche, delivering teenage dialogue with impressive authenticity. She also artfully combines serious and lighthearted subject matter, adroitly juxtaposing the comic goofiness of high school life with its moments of high drama. The plot develops slowly, and as a result, the romantic tension between Fletcher and Haley isn’t always as strong as it could have been. Overall, however, this is an uncomplicated and pleasantly agreeable tale.

A companionable and realistic rendering of teen courtship.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63375-898-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2018

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.

MIDNIGHT SUN

From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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