This stop-and-start romance doesn’t come together.

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MAYBE THIS TIME

Enemies unconvincingly become lovers.

Judgmental and with a chip on her shoulder, Sophie wants nothing more than to escape her small Alabama town for design school in New York. To make money, she works for the local florist/party planner, which also lets her spend time with her best friend, Micah, a waitress for her father’s catering company. When Micah’s father is picked for former celebrity chef Jett Hart’s small business mentorship program, it brings Sophie into contact with Jett’s son, Andrew—a guy who rubs her the wrong way with his city manners and hesitation to stand up to his mercurial father. Over the course of various events throughout the year—a format working against narrative flow, not to mention romance—Sophie struggles to get some inspiration for her design portfolio, cope with family issues, and not let Andrew get under her skin, even as she starts seeing other sides of him. It takes fighting with Micah and a good, hard look at herself for Sophie to take a chance with Andrew, just in time for a new year to begin. The episodic format doesn’t jibe with the small-town setting—how can Sophie only see Andrew at events? Most characters are assumed to be white other than Micah, who is black.

This stop-and-start romance doesn’t come together. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-21008-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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