A realistic take on ALS, caregiving, loss, and loyalty, with an appealing main character.

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WRECK

Devastated by her father’s revelation of his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), 17-year-old Tobin must cope with his swiftly declining physical and mental health.

Tobin lives with her father, Steve, a paramedic, in their hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. Her paternal family has deep roots, going back some 340 years to the original white European fur trappers who founded the city. Steve hires Ike Navarro, the son of his ambulance partner, as his personal care assistant. Ike was an Army medic in Afghanistan and is the great-grandson of Mexican immigrants. Together, Tobin and Ike take care of Steve, with Ike providing Tobin big brother–like support and helpful guidance about the medical trajectory of the disease. The first-person perspective, which includes some journal entries, reveals a loving daughter tormented by the rapid worsening of symptoms and her father’s unfathomable plan to end his life. Cronn-Mills (Original Fake, 2016, etc.) paints a clear picture of the anticipatory grief Tobin is experiencing as well as the difficulty of communicating with family and friends. One important exception is her understanding great-uncle Paul, who is gay; this detail is presented matter-of-factly. The city of Duluth is described well and provides a rooted-in-reality backdrop for the action. Lake Superior is an important presence, serving as a key part of the recurring—and effective—metaphor of Tobin’s frozen-with-grief heart.

A realistic take on ALS, caregiving, loss, and loyalty, with an appealing main character. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3903-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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