WHEN DAD KILLED MOM

A brother and sister try in their separate ways to cope with the ultimate family cataclysm. This decidedly unfun novel is a real departure for Lester (The Blues Singers, see above, etc.), who has recently been primarily concerned with lighter themes. Jeremy, 12, and Jenna, 14, alternate first-person accounts of the aftermath of their artist mother’s murder at the hands of their psychologist father, each sorting out his or her relationships with mother, father, and each other. Jeremy, it turns out, was a real mama’s boy, whereas the sexually precocious Jenna has always felt much closer to their father, and their confusion and sorrow further separate—but ultimately unite—the siblings. A number of saintly adults help the children work through their grief and anger, most notably the eternally patient Karen, their father’s ex-wife and mother’s best friend, who is perfectly positioned to present critical revelations that help both children and reader understand what has happened. Jenna’s narrative is frequently foul-mouthed but bravely honest as she struggles with a genuine love for her father and with guilt over her adolescent battles with her mother. Jeremy’s is pleasingly naïve and straightforward, but is weakened by his convenient discovery of his mother’s diary, which describes the dissolution of her marriage in barely credible detail. The last third of the book is a courtroom drama in which all is made clear and the father is once and for all exposed for the stinker he’s always been. Almost ridiculously contrived, it’s nevertheless a compelling story suffused with raw and honest emotion, the heightened nature of which will naturally appeal to teens. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-216305-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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