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How (Not) To Fall in Love

A promising debut featuring a crackerjack heroine who doesn’t need a hero to complete her sweet, rambling quest.

Awards & Accolades

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In Roberts’ debut YA riches-to-rags story, the daughter of a self-help guru searches for her lost father and finds herself.

Darcy Covington discovers who her true friends are when her Audi is towed from her private school’s parking lot. While most of her classmates gawk from the sidelines, only her best friend, Sal, comes to her aid. Darcy’s father’s self-help business is going bankrupt, and he’s gone missing. Her only clues to his whereabouts are the cryptic postcards he sends from the road (“I’m still looking. Not sure when I’ll find it. But I love you. –Dad”). Now his business partner, J.J., is threatening to seize the family’s home if they can’t come up with the money to buy it from the company. The fallout from the scandal unfolds in media sound bites—including a David Letterman–style top-10 list that doesn’t quite land—but Darcy’s observations about her plight are astute: “The sleek, spiky silver chandelier made me think of knife blades poised above us while we ate, but Mom bought it during a European shopping spree, so we were stuck with it.” While her mother drinks herself into oblivion, Darcy takes refuge in her estranged Uncle Charlie’s thrift shop. As she warms up to Charlie, she sees how her hippie uncle and her overachieving father are opposite sides of the same coin: Charlie applies his brother’s wisdom by being kind to his customers, who tell stories in exchange for doughnuts. Not since Uncle Leo in Barthe DeClements’ Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You (1985) has an uncle made such an impact. Darcy also sees glimpses of her future self in Charlie’s friend Liz, who runs a cozy (and chaotic) coffee shop nearby. When Darcy meets Charlie’s trusted employee, Lucas, she’s immediately smitten. Ultimately, though, her personal transformation is more compelling than her crush: her confidence grows as she admirably takes over the household duties, from baking casseroles to coordinating her family’s estate sale. Lucas, though unfailingly chivalrous, is left behind when Darcy finds another clue in the Stonehenge replica she created with her father—a wonderful narrative detail—and goes on a rescue mission to bring him home.

A promising debut featuring a crackerjack heroine who doesn’t need a hero to complete her sweet, rambling quest.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1622665204

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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