An awkwardly written but unusually in-depth portrayal of cancer and disability.

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FINDING BALANCE

From the Brave Enough series , Vol. 2

Two high schoolers are simultaneously united and divided by their cancer diagnoses, threatening their tentative romance.

Jase Ellison’s friends at Atlanta West Prep don’t know he had leukemia at age 3; he’s safe from the intrusive questions and taunts he endured in middle school. However, last summer at Camp Chemo, his past didn’t prevent a “flirtationship” with Mari Manos. Mari, who “rocked the one-legged look” on pink forearm crutches thanks to osteogenic sarcoma at 10, can’t hide her history. But when Mari transfers to his school and students gawk and gossip, Jase fears that his secret’s in danger and pushes her away. In alternating third-person chapters, the teens navigate medical and academic problems while wrestling with their fear, anger, and attraction. Gardner, an amputee and cancer survivor, realistically tackles such tough issues as the massive costs of health care, the fear of relapse, and pressure to appear nondisabled. However, expository narration, some stilted dialogue, and one-dimensional secondary characters occasionally diminish the emotional impact. The teens’ classmates’ absolute ignorance of cancer particularly strains credulity. Pop-culture references—from Hamilton to “Baby Shark”—feel somewhat forced, as does the use of such disability rights terms as “super crip” and “inspiration porn.” However, Mari’s supportive family is heartening. Most characters are affluent and white; olive-skinned Mari and her family are working-class and cued as Greek American.

An awkwardly written but unusually in-depth portrayal of cancer and disability. (Romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63583-052-1

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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