With a plot that reads like an overstuffed gumbo recipe and heavy and obvious foreshadowing, this ambitious story spends too...

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WHAT THE WOODS KEEP

Hayden Holland, a white woman living in Brooklyn with her French-Senegalese best friend, Del Chauvet, finds out on her 18th birthday that she has inherited a house from her mother, Ella.

Ella had a mysterious death: She disappeared into the woods of their hometown of Promise, Colorado, a decade ago, never to be seen or heard from since and was declared dead in absentia. Hayden and her father moved away soon after to New York, but problems followed them there. Hayden kept having nightmares and later had to be home-schooled, along with seeing a therapist, after a violent incident with another student at school. Her father, Thomas, lost tenure due in part to his obsession with theories too extreme for his university to support. Hayden visits the old house, along with Del, seeking answers to lingering questions and trying to make sense of the conditions her mother attached to the codicil to her will. Can she fulfill her mother’s wishes while uncovering secrets so long withheld from her? Superfluous prose makes for a long read, although the ending, ironically, is rushed and anticlimactic. Inconsistent and inorganic character reactions mixed with all-too-convenient plot devices make suspension of disbelief difficult.

With a plot that reads like an overstuffed gumbo recipe and heavy and obvious foreshadowing, this ambitious story spends too much time on exposition and not enough on character development. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-12425-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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