Sure to please any teen who loves the arts or dreams of musical-style romance.

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WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED

From the If Only series

Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in the big city anymore.

For thespian Maddie Brooks, junior year of high school is off to a rocky start. Forced to leave Chicago after her father loses his job, Maddie finds herself relocated to suburban Houston, a land of cowboy hats and four-wheelers so foreign to her that it might as well be over the rainbow. Focusing on drama to help navigate her life transition, Maddie devotes her energy to landing a part in the local theater’s production of Crazy for You. The only problem is…she doesn’t know how to tap dance. Enter Jesse Morales, her former dancer–turned–baseball star of a next-door neighbor. Jesse is handsome, well-mannered, and everything that Maddie could hope for…except that her fantasy boyfriend is Gene Kelly, not Albert Pujols. Rae’s (Wish You Were Italian, 2014) second novel in the If Only series proves that she knows her teen audience well, delivering a story that is well-paced, engaging, and enjoyable. Maddie is an appealing protagonist, as sassy and sophisticated as she is occasionally self-absorbed. Her great struggle ultimately is not with dance or boyfriends but with her expectation that life mirror the old-Hollywood movies she reveres. Though the plot resolution is unsurprising, snappy dialogue and compulsively readable prose render the characters fresh and the situations entertaining.

Sure to please any teen who loves the arts or dreams of musical-style romance. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-821-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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SALT TO THE SEA

January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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