The book suffers somewhat from middle-book syndrome, but it is still solid enough to keep fans reading.

THE REPLACED

From the Taking series , Vol. 2

The second entry in the Taking trilogy finds Kyra mixing it up with a group of fellow Returned and searching for her lost love. 

Derting wastes no time diving right back in to Kyra's journey, one that is just as physical as the first book’s was emotional. This change of pace is a little jarring: Gone is the exploration of Kyra's alarming reappearance and what that means to those around her. In its place are missions, camp life, sci-fi hokum and a new love interest. The least interesting part of the series' prior installment was Kyra's growing attraction to Tyler, a character who has little to offer besides a nice smile and cut abs. The author improves this element tremendously this time around. Kyra's budding relationship with fellow Returned Simon is much more scintillating. Simon has Tyler beat in every way: He’s as smart and brave and capable as he is attractive, bouncing off Kyra's negative vibes with a refreshing cautious optimism. Less exciting is the book's overall structure, or lack thereof. Kyra and her Returned posse drift from place to place, occasionally poking the National Security Agency but more often than not just constantly moving. Enough bread crumbs are dropped to hint at the forthcoming conclusion, and of course there's a cliffhanger heading into the final book, but all the traveling makes for one very episodic installment.

The book suffers somewhat from middle-book syndrome, but it is still solid enough to keep fans reading. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229363-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier.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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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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