Intriguing premise, flawed execution.

FANGIRL

In what could have been an escapist fantasy romp, E! Entertainment Television chief news correspondent Baker delivers a tepid Hollywood romance.

The protagonists are Josie, a 14-year-old California tomboy, and Peter Maxx, a 16-year-old Justin Bieber–like teen idol. Josie and Peter overcome the odds, their frenemies and their own anxieties to find chaste true love and a reliably tidy ending. Whole paragraphs of journalistic exposition befit Baker’s reportorial background but translate awkwardly to narrative fiction; the stiff third-person narration is too distant to make Josie and Peter’s alternating perspectives feel authentic. A relentless stream of pop-culture references  (Coldplay, TOMS shoes, Formspring) feel less like real teen dialogue and more like an adult straining for relevance, anchoring the story to a very specific period in time that might render it already passe among trend-spotting teens. Baker’s access to entertainment titans has given him much to draw upon in his descriptions of the lonely life of a teenage star, but the story’s stale arc might be insufficiently compelling to hook readers not suffering from Bieber fever.

Intriguing premise, flawed execution. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7624-4344-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Rags to riches with a British twist.

HELLO, CRUEL HEART

Penniless 16-year-old orphan Estella dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer but survives by robbing rich tourists in swinging 1960s London.

After her mother died in a freak accident, Estella moved to the city, bunking down in the Lair, a grimy pad in a bombed-out building, with her chosen family of fellow thieves Horace and Jasper. Although she flunked out of school, Estella has exceptional design talent and is determined to excel in the field. A pair of well-connected trust-fund twins dazzle her with their carefree, affluent lifestyle and groovy circle of friends, and they ultimately exploit her by bartering her fashion skills for accommodation and friendship. Estella soon learns that their glamorous lifestyle is shallow and their friendships, fickle, and she realizes that she will have to find her own way in life. Estella’s complete naïveté in the face of wealth and sophistication is convincingly drawn, and her fashionista ability is fun and engaging; the ending brings a twist that readers may not see coming. The story contains peripheral references to One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Estella has Cruella de Vil black-and-white hair, which she disguises with red dye, and a Cruella alter ego who pops up in her head in moments of crisis and helps her remain true to herself. All characters present White.

Rags to riches with a British twist. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-05776-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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