Too much politics. Too little heart.

INTERFERENCE

When an ex-boyfriend posts humiliating pictures of her online, 17-year-old Kate Hamilton feels responsible for the dramatic shift in political mojo that leads her father to step down from his U.S. Congressional seat and move the family from the nation’s capital to his hometown in Red Dirt, Texas.

This podunk town may be a far cry from the sophisticated world she’s used to, but the white teen quickly discovers that while the issues may be different, everything is still political, particularly when she discovers that the school’s quarterback is the son of her father’s new campaign opponent. Kate is determined to shore up her chances of getting into a fine arts college by using her time in Red Dirt to perfect her photography portfolio and snare the coveted principal’s recommendation from her cheating ex when the family inevitably returns to D.C. But she’s stuck here now, and using her political savvy to right wrongs and navigate life in a new high school where football reigns may be her biggest challenge yet. While Kate is likable enough, her tendency toward political-jargon infodumps often feels forced and inauthentic. The story is best when it focuses on the romantic tension between Kate and the mysterious Hunter Price, her biology partner and a man of many talents, and on the blossoming friendship between Kate and Ana Gomez, the one significant character of color.

Too much politics. Too little heart. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-81232-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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