A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip


From the Ashes of Twilight series , Vol. 2

What ought to be a tense story of discovery after escaping a post-apocalyptic steampunk hellscape is overwhelmed by a bland, unremarkable love triangle.

At the end of Ashes of Twilight (2012), Wren led her fellow coal-mining villagers out of the dome that’s imprisoned them for generations. The outside world is not blazing afire, as their rulers have assured them ever since the comet that sent their people into the domes generations ago, during the Victoria era. Though the sun burns their pale skin, and the fresh air (ridiculously) kills many of the escapees, Wren is determined never to go back. Though the events of the first book ended Wren’s previous wearisome love triangle, never fear: A new charismatic young man appears, along with some other outlandish adventurers, to add ponderous romantic tension. Wren’s ogling of all the boys—“[t]he smooth breadth of their chests, the work of the muscles in the back, the dips and curves in the stomachs and hips”—is endless. She’s not even distracted by the nigh-feral attackers outside the dome: stinky, toothless and speaking in a laughable hillbilly dialect (in coastal Wales, these ruffians deliver such gems as “I’m ah-tellin-ya”).

A jumble of characters and stereotypes does not constitute worldbuilding. Skip . (Steampunk. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-64176-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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An undemanding, wish-fulfillment romance.


From the Heartbreakers Chronicles series , Vol. 2

Another fluffy romance between a girl and a boy-band member, following The Heartbreakers (2015).

Four years ago, after her rebellious older sister, Rose, ran away, Felicity came up with a plan for her future, one designed to make her single mom happy: going to Harvard and becoming a lawyer—just like her absentee dad. It also means working, studying hard, and volunteering as much as she can, leaving little time for enjoying her summer with her best friends, Asha and Boomer. Then, volunteering at a charity ball, she meets the very cute, very reserved Alec, a member of the Heartbreakers. Sparks fly, but right before their first date, Felicity discovers a life-altering secret her mother has been keeping: Rose has been writing Felicity letters since she left. This sends Felicity on a quest to find Rose, accompanied by Alec, Asha, and Boomer. Along the way, she’ll have to come to grips with questions about lies, the truth, and whether her plans for the future will make her happy—can her happiness include Alec? The romance between Felicity and Alec is standard, from the meet-cute to the inevitable misunderstanding. There’s not really anything that elevates the characters or plot beyond the conventional, yet Novak handles it all with a light, deft touch. Save mixed-race Asha, whose mother is Indian and whose father is white, the cast of principals is an all-white one.

An undemanding, wish-fulfillment romance. (Romance. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5336-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Although it aims to liberate, this is just another weight-loss arc accidentally portraying fatness as tragic and optional.


A teen reaps economic, professional, and social benefits from losing weight.

Cookie Vonn—white and blonde like her supermodel mother—has absentee parents, a zeal for fashion, a hardcore work ethic, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: interviewing a world-famous New York designer for her blog internship. But the airline declares Cookie “too fat to fly.” So, age 17 and 330 pounds, Cookie joins the NutriNation diet plan. A plot thread labeled “fat” follows her that year, while the interspersed “skinny” thread follows her at age 19, after losing 199 pounds. Despite showing two parts of the same person’s life—not alternate universes—it reads like alternate universes. Cookie’s first-person voice is zesty, funny, bitter, and bewitching in both, but they vary starkly in plausibility. Fat Cookie faces realistic discrimination and cruelty, while skinny Cookie stumbles into fantasy-level boons: designing her own fashion line, an all-expenses-paid wealthy lifestyle, corporate sponsorship, and passionate sex in an Argentine gondola. Although skinny Cookie still can’t find joy, her bounty of material gains profoundly undermines the text’s attempted message that weight loss is no golden ticket. Skinny Cookie eventually—supposedly—reaches self-acceptance, moderating the diet that left her constantly hungry—but how much import can a literary fat-acceptance message carry when spoken by a still-skinny character? The book assumes a white default.

Although it aims to liberate, this is just another weight-loss arc accidentally portraying fatness as tragic and optional. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-373-21253-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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