The combination of underexplained plotting, baroque setup, and inconsistent characters creates a bewildering read.

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BLOOD AND SALT

From the Blood and Salt series , Vol. 1

Ash finds herself trapped in the cult her mother grew up in, surrounded by carnivorous corn and possibly destined to have her body inhabited by an immortal ancestor.

Ash has always been haunted by visions of a hanging girl, from whom her peculiar, mystical mom protects her with a series of invisible tattoos. But when her mother disappears, Ash and her twin brother, Rhys, suspect she’s been taken back to her ancestral cult, and they set out to rescue her. Upon arriving, Ash is immediately drawn to Dane, who meets them in the car junkyard just beyond the boundaries of the corn. Turns out these cars foreshadow the fact that people who wander through this cornfield end up being eaten (unless they are magical like Dane). Once in the cult, Ash’s visions begin revealing a fantastical back story that involves true love gone wrong, immortality, black magic, and plenty of bloodshed, all of which is difficult to follow. Equally confusing is how quickly Ash accepts the strange cult rituals and how her concern for her mother and brother only rarely surfaces. Stylistically, metaphors abound, but characters and their relationships are given far less attention and development. The end sets readers up for another installment.

The combination of underexplained plotting, baroque setup, and inconsistent characters creates a bewildering read. (Paranormal romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16648-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues...

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

He’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited.

Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his—based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. He takes on Big Questions that might feel heavy-handed in the words of any other author: What do oblivion and living mean? Then he deftly parries them with humor: “My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.” Dog-earing of pages will no doubt ensue.

Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues to make it through Hazel and Gus’ poignant journey. (Fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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