A heady round trip, heavy baggage and all, from heartbreak to healing.

FOUR FOR THE ROAD

Three New Jersey teens and a semisenile senior citizen, all grieving family losses, take a road trip to Graceland.

All four are devastated, vulnerable, and looking for ways beyond therapy groups to ease the pain. Henry seizes the chance to carry his beloved wife’s ashes to Memphis, and Sloane comes along to steal and ride a Harley down Beale Street wearing her father’s leather jacket. Will’s motives are less defined until the sight of a group of young cancer patients outside St. Jude’s helps him with the gnawing loss of his little brother to neuroblastoma. Unlikely as it seems, readers may end up rooting for 17-year-old cyberstalker Asher, who narrates in snarky, Holden Caulfield–style sentences. Asher is catfishing Grace, the daughter of the drunk driver who killed his mother—and plans to murder Grace’s dad. (Though set up to be a victim, Grace turns out to be a redoubtable scene-stealer and one of the book’s best surprises.) So overwhelming is the load of trauma they each carry that it’s hard to see how their journey could end on a buoyant note, but Reilly pulls it off by developing rich friendships while artfully slipping in comical elements on the way to a climactic whirl of laughter, tears, budding romance, and well-placed insights. Not to mention references throughout to Kierkegaard, The Little Prince, stages of grief, and coping strategies like self-forgiveness. The cast presents White.

A heady round trip, heavy baggage and all, from heartbreak to healing. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66590-228-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst.

DRY

When a calamitous drought overtakes southern California, a group of teens must struggle to keep their lives and their humanity in this father-son collaboration.

When the Tap-Out hits and the state’s entire water supply runs dry, 16-year-old Alyssa Morrow and her little brother, Garrett, ration their Gatorade and try to be optimistic. That is, until their parents disappear, leaving them completely alone. Their neighbor Kelton McCracken was born into a survivalist family, but what use is that when it’s his family he has to survive? Kelton is determined to help Alyssa and Garrett, but with desperation comes danger, and he must lead them and two volatile new acquaintances on a perilous trek to safety and water. Occasionally interrupted by “snapshots” of perspectives outside the main plot, the narrative’s intensity steadily rises as self-interest turns deadly and friends turn on each other. No one does doom like Neal Shusterman (Thunderhead, 2018, etc.)—the breathtakingly jagged brink of apocalypse is only overshadowed by the sense that his dystopias lie just below the surface of readers’ fragile reality, a few thoughtless actions away. He and his debut novelist son have crafted a world of dark thirst and fiery desperation, which, despite the tendrils of hope that thread through the conclusion, feels alarmingly near to our future. There is an absence of racial markers, leaving characters’ identities open.

Mouths have never run so dry at the idea of thirst. (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8196-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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