Thrills and mystery from a pro.

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MISSING

A girl living in a depressed coal mining town finds a wealthy boy in the woods who has been savagely beaten, then searches for him when he disappears.

Winter Crane intends to escape both her alcoholic father and her trailer-park life in the largely white Appalachian community of Reeve’s End. On a hunting trip, she finds Lennon unconscious in the woods. She fashions a makeshift stretcher for him and drags him back to her tiny hunting shack, where he tells her he knows her friend Edie, but Edie’s missing. Then Lennon disappears. With Jude, Lennon’s older brother, Winter embarks on a quest to find him and to investigate what has happened to the many young people who have left Reeve’s End. The search takes the partners to the boys’ wealthy parents’ home, where she’s accosted. The plot thickens even further when Winter finds the body of another missing Reeve’s End young man. Unable to count on the incompetent local police, Winter and Jude find themselves in several dangerous situations as they clamber through abandoned mines and the like. Complicating the situation is a pack of menacing feral dogs that roams the area. Characterizations ring true, especially that of Winter, who dreams of becoming a doctor. Armstrong develops a possible romance between Winter and Jude even as she pursues her mystery plot. As it thickens, and the danger turns into a serious life-or-death threat, the narrative easily holds readers’ interest.

Thrills and mystery from a pro. (Suspense. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55032-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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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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