Ultimately, just as frustrating, underdeveloped, and problematic as the trope this novel tries to interrogate.

THE MANIC PIXIE DREAM BOY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

A Manic Pixie Dream Boy learns he’s more than just a label.

Riley is TropeTown’s second-ever Manic Pixie Dream Boy—a subset of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. After twice deviating from his script on a job, the Council assigns Riley to mandatory group therapy with a motley crew of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. There, he falls for Zelda, of the Geek Chic subtype, and finds an unanticipated group of friends. However, something’s not quite right in TropeTown, and Riley has to decide if he is willing to risk termination to learn the truth about TropeTown and protect the Manic Pixies. Underdeveloped worldbuilding and a general lack of subtlety leaves elements of characterization and plot unsatisfying. There is plenty of discussion about the concept of Manic Pixies, but any attempted critique is undermined by the continued centering of Riley, a male character who finds himself through the help of secondary women characters. Barely-veiled digs at John Green’s many Manic Pixies abound; a painfully self-conscious discussion arises between white characters exploring the similarities and differences between Manic Pixies and racist tropes like the Magical Negro as well as the benefits and detriments of tropes as representation. A few of the women characters have been in same-sex relationships, and characters default to white.

Ultimately, just as frustrating, underdeveloped, and problematic as the trope this novel tries to interrogate. (Speculative fiction/satire. 13-17)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-1259-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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A derivative mess.

ASHFALL LEGACY

A half alien teenager sets out for the stars in search of his missing dad.

In what rapidly devolves into a jumble of well-worn science-fiction tropes and typecast settings glued together by adolescent behavior and muddy thinking, the story follows 16-year-old Sydney, who has been on the lam with his gun-toting default-White human mom for 10 years. Syd meets and agrees to join his alien uncle on a training voyage to planet Denza, where he can take classes at the local star fleet academy and find his father, who vanished on an exploratory voyage years before. Syd discovers that all humans become super strong and super tough when they leave Earth—but die when they return. Might his father have come upon a cure hidden among the relics of a…wait for it…mysterious race of vanished galactic overlords? In his typically unsubtle way, the pseudonymous Lore chucks discrimination into the mix too—being a “mutt,” as one hostile shipmate put it, Syd gets a decidedly mixed reception from the specist Denzans, and a fellow hybrid angrily informs him that she identifies as human. Before arbitrarily cutting off midway through, the climax collapses into a glutinous mass of revelations including the fate of Syd’s father and the nature of the aforementioned overlords. Oh, and there are space monsters and a magic ring.

A derivative mess. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-284536-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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