While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration...

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ABOVE

In a world where "Sick's the same as Freak Above," only below is Safe.

Safe is both adjective and noun in Matthew’s world, both the feeling and the subterranean haven built by claw-handed Atticus. Matthew is the Teller of Safe, the person who keeps everyone's stories and retells them. Its denizens are those unwanted Above: the mentally ill, the marginal—and the Cursed. He loves the fragile, honey-haired Ariel, whom he found on patrol in the sewers around Safe and who turns into a honeybee when under stress. Bobet starts her surreal fable/adventure explosively, with a catastrophic raid by the terrifying shadows that kills leader Atticus and scatters Safe's residents. Matthew, Ariel and two others make their way alone to a sympathetic doctor Above to regroup and, they hope, retake Safe. Above, Matthew finds his received history continually under challenge. Having been the first child born in Safe, Matthew sees it as the only reality. Occasionally interspersing Matthew's tightly filtered, present-tense account with the Tales of Safe, the author rarely gives readers an opportunity to see what may be objectively "real," making for a slightly claustrophobic, normality-inverting experience.

While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-29670-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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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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