An emotionally engaging and draining debut.

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS

Two teenagers suffer through their first heartbreak.

Henry Page has spent his high school years with his nose to the grindstone, avoiding romantic relationships and focusing on becoming the editor of the school paper. At the start of his senior year Henry is offered the job, but there’s a catch: transfer student Grace Town is offered the gig as well, making the two white teens co-editors. Sparks fly as Henry works with the aloof, unkempt new girl, who walks with a cane. As Henry and Grace grow closer, Henry falls deeper for her even as he learns just how broken she is. In her debut, Sutherland mixes her love story with equal parts hope and ominous dread. There is never any doubt that this couple is marching toward romantic oblivion, but it’s an effectively drawn journey. The characters speak with a John Green–esque voice, but they are never overbearingly precocious. Narrator Henry’s a smartly rendered character, a decent kid who has goals and works hard to achieve them. His new goal is Grace’s affection, and the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object that is Grace’s emotional unavailability provides the novel some of its sharpest moments. When the walls tumble down, the connection between the two is clearly an unhealthy one, and the author pulls no punches, devastating Henry, Grace, and readers in equal measure.

An emotionally engaging and draining debut. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54656-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Earnest and amusing.

CURSES

A “beastly girl” meets a handsome boy in a tongue-in-cheek fairy-tale universe vaguely reminiscent of Victorian England.

Not a typical member of the fairyborn aristocracy, Merit has horns, fur, and a tail. Unless she finds a love match or marries a suitor her mother chooses before her next birthday, she will keep them forever. Compared to some in her curse support group, though, she’s not so unfortunate; a tincture of a certain herb from her family’s lands can restore her normal form for a few hours. As penance for his mother’s theft of the herb, Tevin, a magically charming con boy, promises to help Merit secure a worthy partner. Merit and Tevin’s sweet romance grows naturally from their friendship, but supporting characters provide the most entertainment—especially Tevin’s sharpshooting lesbian cousin, Val. In fact, Merit and Tevin match so easily that it’s hard to feel a lot of tension or suspense. Plus, their stalwart crew of friends always seems more than capable of handling the garden-variety villain, an ambitious queen. Sassy chapter titles and the odd cheeky aside infuse the traditional setting with some humor. Refreshingly, marriage equality seems to be the law of the land, and one culture in this world does not believe in binary genders. Most characters are cued as White; there is some diversity of skin tone in the cast.

Earnest and amusing. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984815-59-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Will both entertain and encourage reflection.

CINDERELLA IS DEAD

In Mersailles, “Cinderella” is more than just a fairy tale: It’s the basis for a harsh monarch’s throttlehold on his kingdom.

Sophia is turning 16, the age at which young women must attend King Manford’s annual ball, at which they are scrutinized by and married off to male attendees. Any young woman who has not been claimed after her third ball is destined to spend the rest of her days engaged in hard labor. But being chosen can be its own curse in a society where domestic violence is common. Sophia is a beautiful Black girl in love with dark-haired Erin, one of her best friends. While racial diversity is a natural part of this world, the same acceptance does not exist for those who defy rigid gender norms: Anything other than heterosexual desire is strictly forbidden, and while Sophia wishes to escape as a couple, Erin is too fearful. After fleeing the ball, Sophia stumbles across Cinderella’s mausoleum, hidden in the woods. There she meets rebellious Constance, an attractive young red-haired woman with a very personal motivation for sabotaging the monarchy. As the two grew closer—and sparks fly—they discover secrets that could end Manford’s cruel reign. This promising debut deals with themes around rebellion and empowerment as well as the toll that rejecting the status quo can take on relationships. The atmospheric setting is a particular strength, and the twists and turns will keep readers in suspense.

Will both entertain and encourage reflection. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0387-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

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