Verily, fine fare.



To avoid running into her ex-boyfriend, a teenage girl leaves town to work the summer at a Renaissance fair.

All of Rowena Duncan’s summer plans went kaput when she discovered her boyfriend was two-timing her. Hanging with her friends at the beach and working at the local tiki-themed restaurant was no longer an option—those are places she would assuredly see him. Landing a job she finds online, she winds up as a face painter at a Renaissance fair, far from civilization and reliable cellphone reception. Her deep desire is to pursue art, so she’s thrilled to be painting—even if it’s only on the cherubic faces of young fairgoers—but what’s more, the place is rich with artists and performers. Her high-powered parents, however, want her to follow in their white-collar footsteps and only view the job as a topic for a standout college essay. Rowena settles into the fair life quickly thanks to Will, a witty, whip-cracking magician who shows her the ropes and is sweetly and perpetually attentive. But it’s the heart-stopping, black-haired, blue-eyed knight Christian who keeps Rowena’s adrenaline pumping—and soon she finds herself wrestling with Cupid all over again. Sharp, funny dialogue is mixed with thoughtful resolutions of relevant teenage topics—love and lust, admitting fault, the mettle it takes to pursue a passion. The rich backdrop of the fair, with its vivid description and appealing characters, is icing on the cake.

Verily, fine fare. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8933-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.


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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