Though the ending lets the shooter off rather lightly, it doesn’t negate the novel’s cautionary message.

READ REVIEW

UNTIL I BREAK

Flashbacks explore events leading up to an incidence of school violence.

The opening scene is full of gripping sensory details: “The barrel of the gun is warm against my temple….[Ace’s] eyes are wide and wild.” But it’s the careful narrative withholding of the holder of the gun's identity that really makes the rest of the novel so interesting. As flashbacks lead up to the opening scene, readers must puzzle out which character will ultimately become the aggressor. Sometimes it seems the shooter must be Ace, the star football player whose father brutally punishes him for perceived on-field failures and who has a history of secretly tormenting the narrator, Sam. But other moments suggest that it’s long-suffering Sam who may become violent. Increasingly agitated by Ace’s bullying, Sam also starts to believe Ace plans to harm their shared childhood crush. Armed with the knowledge of the boys’ inevitable confrontation, readers will become increasingly concerned as Sam internalizes his grandfather’s motto, “Men are supposed to stand on their own two feet. Men don’t ask for help. Men take care of things on their own,” a motto Sam’s and Ace’s fathers would likely endorse as well. Ultimately their definition of masculinity may lie at the heart of the violence. The novel is as cagey about racial identity as it is about the shooter’s, offering little by way of description or cultural cues.

Though the ending lets the shooter off rather lightly, it doesn’t negate the novel’s cautionary message. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7438-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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