Surprisingly and entertainingly depicts mature views on life, friendship, and romance.

IF WE WERE US

A dramatic and secret-filled senior year at boarding school through the eyes of two childhood friends.

Sage and Charlie have known each other forever, and all their friends think they’re secretly in love. While new romance does bloom during their senior year, the fear of changing relationships and pressure from their peers cause anxiety within their friend group. As Sage and Charlie repress their emotions and identities to maintain the status quo, they dream of being free to live true to themselves. While there’s a wide cast of characters, the focus stays on Sage, Charlie, new student Luke, and Charlie’s twin, Nick. Covering their entire senior year at the Bexley School, the story is at times confusing to follow, with key events being related as reminiscences, lessening their emotional impact for readers. The protagonists’ families’ influence on their decisions, from Sage’s divorced, high school–sweetheart parents to Charlie and Nick’s elite, old-fashioned family, adds necessary character depth. The emotional stress of coming out is depicted in an empathetic manner. While the story unfolds slowly, the storylines become gripping and realistically convoluted. The book situates whiteness as the norm for most characters; Luke’s mother is Japanese (his late father’s ethnicity is not specified). Several minor characters are cued as racially diverse.

Surprisingly and entertainingly depicts mature views on life, friendship, and romance. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1026-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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