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

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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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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