This novel is more dead garden than lush paradise.

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POISON PRINCESS

From the Arcana Chronicles series , Vol. 1

Mixing romance, a plant-killing apocalypse and mystical mumbo jumbo, this YA debut brings tears for the trees killed to print it.

Before the Flash, Evie worried about avoiding Jackson Deveaux, a Cajun boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and not going crazy from the horrifying visions she sees or the voices in her head. After the Flash, a convenient apocalyptic event that wipes out any life exposed to it—human, animal and vegetable—Evie, bland and kind, eventually joins forces with the one-dimensional Jackson, who's either surly or sexually aggressive. Evie learns that she is part of the Arcana, a secret group with supernatural powers representing cards in the tarot, and they will soon engage in a battle with Death itself. If Evie doesn't accept her powers as the Empress, the world is doomed, but probably not as much as this novel. The relationship between Jackson and Evie seems more like emotional manipulation and abuse than sexy romance. Cole clearly missed the science lesson about photosynthesis—wiping out all plants would probably quickly eliminate all life, period. Meanwhile, the plot is all setup, wandering through seemingly disconnected scenes until a jarring ending.

This novel is more dead garden than lush paradise. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3664-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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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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