A bleak yet compelling portrayal of Appalachian mountain life.

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A SKY FOR US ALONE

In Strickland County, coal is king, opiate abuse is rampant, and a wide valley separates those who have power from those who do not.

Eighteen-year-old Harlowe is making plans for a life outside of Strickland when violence arrives on his doorstep, leaving behind the dead body of his older brother, Nate. The murder and its implications decimate Harlowe’s family, sending his mother back into the grip of addiction and pulling his father deeper into the mines. Harlowe becomes desperate for answers, chasing fragmented clues and secrets that Nate left behind. His feverish obsession with uncovering the truth can only be matched by his fiery desire for Tennessee, a beautiful girl who also knows sadness and who arrives in his life just as Nate is taken from it. The portrait of life in fictional Strickland, with its poverty, corruption, and pollution, is grim but not far-fetched. Glimmers of hope exist in characters’ deep connections to the land and tight bonds with those they trust, but readers will wonder if Harlowe can truly flourish if he stays in the home he’s always known. Characters are assumed white; the portrayal of self-reliant and isolated Appalachian culture is unmistakable; gender roles are traditional and rigid. Though the storyline occasionally meanders, it is driven by mystery and peppered with themes relevant to young readers such as identity, betrayal, and romance.

A bleak yet compelling portrayal of Appalachian mountain life. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-269702-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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