The beautiful black-on-blue cut-paper–designed cover is perhaps the most attractive thing about it.

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CROW GIRL

From a press that specializes in middle-grade–and-above–interest–level books written at a low reading level, a story both simple and simplistic about a teen finding herself.

Lily is tormented by the mean girls at school, but the principal chooses not to do anything, ascribing it to Lily’s sensitivity. Lily’s mom, with 10-year-old boy twins, wants to believe all is OK, but Lily is obsessed with hiding herself, particularly her breasts and belly, feeling that she is fat and unattractive. Coming home from school through the woods, she discovers a crow looking at her fiercely, and she begins to bring scraps to the crows that then come at her call. She stops eating sweets after school so she can get to the crows, who make her feel scared and powerful at once. Her grandmother teaches her to stand properly and buys her bras that fit, so subtly, Lily’s appearance is transformed. She attends a Halloween party dressed as a crow, effectively scaring some people and wowing some others, and gets back at the clique in a not-very-nice but satisfying way. Everything happens in lightly sketched outline, and it is all telling, not showing. Perhaps because it is all meant to be empowering and full of good advice, with a generous dash of crow magic, there is very little character development.

The beautiful black-on-blue cut-paper–designed cover is perhaps the most attractive thing about it. (Fiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-78112-122-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Stoke Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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