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PIZZA, LOVE, AND OTHER STUFF THAT MADE ME FAMOUS

Uninspired and flavorless.

When 16-year-old Sophie is accepted as a contestant on a new reality show for aspiring teen chefs, it seems like a dream come true.

Working in her family’s Greek-Italian restaurant might have prepared Sophie for the pressure of the culinary big time, but when the drama begins heating things up, Sophie needs to figure out if she has what it takes or if she needs to get out of the kitchen. Ruthless celebrity judges, a secret burn book that trashes the contestants and a crush-worthy French culinary student all combine to make this the hottest summer Sophie can remember. Sophie finds herself on the brink of everything she wants, but then why does she miss her best friend, Alex (whom she has yet to admit she like-likes), and her unglamorous life back home? This too-familiar story is little more than a mashup of reality-television drama. Sophie manages to shine in spite of the predictable plot, but even she is not enough to brighten up the otherwise long cast of one-trick secondary characters. Cooking tips and recipes are sprinkled throughout the teen drama. Unfortunately even a recipe for Deconstructed Baklava fails to spice up this otherwise bland story.

Uninspired and flavorless. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9285-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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