Romance, politics, family drama, and more—this one has it all.

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Two 18-year-olds form a turbulent connection after a chance phone call.

On the surface, Meg’s suburban life in Philadelphia seems picture perfect—she’s college-bound, politically active, and works at a voter registration call center. In reality, though, Meg is still suffering from her parents’ tumultuous divorce and avoids conflict at all costs. About an eight-hour drive away, in Alma, Ohio, Colby Moran is dealing with his own troubled family life while working a dead-end job. When a voter registration call accidentally connects Meg and Colby, the two decidedly do not hit it off. Despite this difficult start, they have an undeniable connection, and their long-distance phone calls turn into a friendship and, eventually, romance. Told in alternating perspectives, Meg’s and Colby’s distinct voices and equally flawed characters complement each other in an unconventional yet realistic way. Meg is an optimist and hell-bent on changing the world, one voter at a time; meanwhile, Colby doesn’t have many expectations about things changing and is mostly content living in his small town. Together, they challenge each other to think and act differently—but are they strong enough to overcome their differences? Part romance, part coming-of-age, this is a realistic and captivating story that speaks to the issues relevant to teens today. Most characters are cued as white; Meg is attracted to both boys and girls.

Romance, politics, family drama, and more—this one has it all. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-267412-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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