Adoption entails lifelong losses along with joys, but its hard questions and nuanced complexities are airbrushed from this...

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AUTOFOCUS

A photography-class assignment on the meaning of family prompts Maude, an adopted high school senior in Florida, to learn about her deceased birth mother, Claire.

Maude’s Indian-American BFF, Treena, attends Florida State University, which Claire attended and where Maude might apply. Parental permission secured, the white teen visits Treena, who promises to help; but partying, drinking, and hanging with her new boyfriend means she’s not there for Maude. Luckily, Treena’s dorm mate, an appealing Star Wars nerd, steps in and joins Maude’s quest, which leads to Claire’s high school, teachers, friends, foes, and family. Each discovery forces Maude to re-examine her image of Claire, as she also does with Treena. Maude’s high-concept struggle to condense a process into one snapshot has depth and pathos, but it is undermined by the incomplete portrait of adoption. A bright, artistic, edgy teen from a troubled background, Claire elicits Maude’s compassion, along with repulsion and relief at having been adopted by better parents. Maude expresses no sense of deep personal loss. After all, her affluent, “fit” parents have given her a better life than her impoverished birth family could. Claire’s (atypical) death in childbirth at 18 safely removed her from the story; Maude’s goal is to understand her mother as a teen in order to complete her own story. Claire’s peers play a greater role in Maude’s search than her birth family.

Adoption entails lifelong losses along with joys, but its hard questions and nuanced complexities are airbrushed from this affluence-cushioned world. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-230223-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue.

SHIELDED

From the Shielded series , Vol. 1

A princess fights to save her kingdom while trying to conceal her magic.

On the eve of her 17th birthday, Princess Jennesara learns of her betrothal to the prince of Turia, an alliance made by her father to secure the neighboring kingdom’s military support in quelling the fighting at his borders. Before she is sent away to safety in Turia, she learns of other worrying developments brewing at home: A burned letter references a search for the mages’ library, illicit magic is being used in skirmishes at the borders, and there is a potential betrayal within her father’s circle of trust. She frets, too, about her own secret magic being discovered, for only her older brother, Ren, is supposed to possess magic. On their way to Turia, Jenna’s party is ambushed and she narrowly escapes. She is forced to fend for herself and find her own way to Turia to discover who betrayed her family and what secrets lie in the rumored mages’ library. Jenna conceals her identity and ingratiates herself with her betrothed’s family as she eludes the threat of a shadowy, sinister foe. Though overflowing with common fantasy tropes and featuring lengthy expository passages, this series opener nevertheless features affable characters and moves at a solid clip that will keep readers entertained. Jenna’s people are fair-haired while Turians are olive-skinned with dark hair.

May well beguile readers with its mix of magic and political intrigue. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11853-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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