A hopeful story about finding one’s place and the sometimes-difficult journey to self-acceptance.

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Can a place be your home if you don’t feel like you belong there?

Fourteen-year-old Kayla is a dark-skinned girl from Trinidad. After being hospitalized following struggles with mental illness—much to her mother’s shame and disappointment—Kayla is sent to spend the summer in Canada with her Aunty Jillian and Jillian’s partner, Julie. She now has to come to terms with and get treatment for her depression and anxiety, all while adjusting to living somewhere so different from the place she has known since birth—from the weather to the more tolerant culture. She sticks out in Edmonton and yet it is here that she has the room to be herself and to try and manage her mental health as best as she can. Allen-Agostini uses frank yet gentle prose to discuss serious topics like mental illness, complex familial dynamics, poverty, violence, and latent as well as blatant homophobia in this novel featuring a diverse cast of characters that focuses on a teen trying to cope with the harsh circumstances she’s been dealt in life. With some chapters written as diary entries detailing Kayla’s concerns, which range from body image and self-esteem to how to handle a crush, the story and voice feel authentic. This novel is sure to evoke sympathy and compassion in readers.

A hopeful story about finding one’s place and the sometimes-difficult journey to self-acceptance. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9358-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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