A well-written romantic comedy.

PUDGE & PREJUDICE

Jane Austen meets 1980s Texas when a smart sophomore falls for a football star.

In September 1984, Elyse Nebbitt moves with her family from Phoenix, Arizona, to Northenfield, Texas, where the members of Elyse’s large and unusual family—devoutly Christian dad, meddling mom, and five daughters—stick out like sore thumbs. Elyse, who is both plump and loves to read, isn’t exactly in the running for homecoming queen. When Elyse’s beautiful and kind older sister, Jayne, meets handsome jock Charlie Bingley, it’s love at first sight, even if Charlie’s best friend, quarterback Billy Fitz, isn’t as sold on the new relationship as the rest of Northenfield High School. Though Elyse is initially skeptical of the school’s emphasis on couples, she soon connects with Gage Wickam, who’s recently moved back to town and has some not-so-positive history with Billy. As Billy rises in football stardom, Elyse’s wild younger sister Lydia develops a crush on Gage, and Charlie is unexpectedly sent away, to Jayne’s utter heartbreak, Elyse must decide if love fits as well as her Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. While it does not add anything substantially new to the body of Pride and Prejudice retellings, Pittman’s writing is sharp and witty, with fun, if sometimes inaccurate, ’80s references. Though the main character and everyone except her mother are comfortable with Elyse's size, the topic of body positivity—unusual in this genre—could have used deeper coverage. All characters are presumed White.

A well-written romantic comedy. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4964-4282-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume.

THE BALLAD OF NEVER AFTER

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 2

Evangeline faces new dangers in her quest for happiness in this follow-up to 2021’s Once Upon a Broken Heart.

As Evangeline Fox seeks a cure for her poisoned husband, Prince Apollo, the enticing and infuriating Fate Jacks reappears, offering to save Apollo if she unlocks the Valory Arch. Remembering the long list of ills brought upon her by the Fate, Evangeline refuses. When the new heir arrives and Apollo wakes with a new curse and glowing red eyes, she is forced to delve into the mysteries of the Valors and find the arch’s four missing magical stones whose powers are luck, truth, mirth, and youth. The inclusion of expanded Valor lore alongside the preexisting blend of fairy-tale and paranormal creatures is intriguing and fits the overarching theme of storytelling as history. The ongoing use of emotions as a scale for displaying and determining one’s humanity, especially by Fates, is equally interesting. Unfortunately, the impact of Evangeline’s often amusing narration and numerous surprising plot twists is diluted by the meandering pacing, convoluted sensory descriptions, and close focus on Evangeline’s fluctuating attraction toward her potential love interests. Despite the positive emphasis on hope and happily-ever-afters, Evangeline’s romantic relationship with Jacks borders on manipulative and toxic. Evangeline reads White; side characters are fantasy diverse.

A disappointing delivery on a potentially gripping second volume. (map) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-26842-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story.

THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE

The lives of two girls named Hannah, living in different centuries on different continents, intersect.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Dory is an English peasant living a harsh existence in 1347. Hannah Doe is a resident of Belman Psychiatric Hospital in 2023 New York City, brought in after being found on the street experiencing hallucinations and screaming something about a castle. Modern-day Hannah periodically enters a catatonic state, something the staff refer to as her “going to the castle.” Columbia psychology student Jordan Hassan is a new intern at Belman, and his interest is piqued by this girl no one knows much about. He decides to play detective and try to discover her history himself. Meanwhile, in the medieval England storyline, Hannah Dory tries to save her village from starvation by sneaking into the baron’s castle but finds herself swept up in a fight between the new baron and his rival. The book sustains a breakneck pace with short chapters and many cliffhangers that will keep readers’ interest. Patterson’s author’s note includes a list of mental health resources and describes his experience of working as an aide in a psychiatric hospital when he was a teenager. The narrative thoughtfully centers mental illness and touches on complex topics like suicide. Whiteness is the default; Jordan is cued as Muslim.

Thrill-seekers will be absorbed by this exciting story. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-41172-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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