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ZYLA & KAI

A first love story with all the feels.

A teen who has sworn off love falls for a hopelessly romantic co-worker.

Zyla’s parents were high school sweethearts but divorced when Zyla was a kid because of her dad’s frequent infidelity. This betrayal—and her mother’s subsequent heartbreak and failed relationships—has turned Zyla into a cynic. She has sworn off dating and romance, instead focusing on getting into fashion design school. Kai’s parents met in college, and it was love at first sight. After they were killed in a car accident, Kai moved in with his maternal aunt and uncle (who was his father’s best friend), and the two of them are models for being true partners. With these relationships as his guiding light, Kai dates a lot—unsuccessfully—in an attempt to find his special person. After an incident with an ex, Kai is forbidden from dating so he can focus on getting into Morehouse. But when Zyla and Kai are assigned to work together at their amusement park jobs, sparks fly—and they must decide if they are willing to break the rules to see what could be. A mystery at the start of the book is a confusing launch point into the story, and the narrative moves clunkily between past and present, but the portrayal of Kai’s grief therapy is excellent, and patient readers will be rewarded with the sweetest happily-ever-after. Most characters are Black.

A first love story with all the feels. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-40724-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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