An entertaining, nicely nuanced depiction of teen relationships and challenges.

The Replacement Crush

A bookish Star Trek fan, stung by a summer liaison, meets an attractive computer whiz during a search for a boyfriend who won’t break her heart in this YA novel.

On the first day of her junior year in high school, Vivian “Viv” Galdi feels nervous and excited, having spent her summer indulging in secret make-out sessions with Jake Fontaine, the sexy surfer classmate on whom she’s had a longtime crush. Arriving at school with her artsy best friend, Jaz, however, Viv soon experiences a letdown: Jake ignores her and flirts with a beautiful “dreadhead.” Also catching the friends’ interest is the arrival of a new classmate, a Clark Kent–looking Vespa rider whom they dub a “totally hot McNerd.” Jake soon lets Viv know that she was just a summer fling, a rejection that leads her to find a “replacement crush” with whom she’ll feel no “zing.” Viv, Jaz, and another pal, Amy, map out possibilities in a journal, but it’s difficult to stick to the plan, especially when the appealing McNerd turns out to be the computer expert named Dallas that Viv’s bookstore owner and mystery author mother has hired to help her daughter with database and inventory work at the shop. By novel’s end, Viv, whose many shared interests with Dallas include a love of Star Trek, sheds aspirations of Spock-like rationality and puts her heart on the line in a posting on her romance novel blog. She also enlists a visiting pop star to help make her case at her California seaside town’s talent show and homeless shelter fundraiser. Roberts (Playing the Player, 2015) has written another smart, charming teen romance, this one featuring plenty of amusing commentary on the genre itself, including Viv and Dallas riffing on romance hero categories. While the conclusion of this novel isn’t hard to predict (as Jaz herself snarkily comments several times in the narrative), Roberts puts a lot of well-woven side details into this journey. These threads include chronicling Viv’s connection with the local homeless contingent and having the dreadhead and another surfer character rise surprisingly above stereotype.

An entertaining, nicely nuanced depiction of teen relationships and challenges.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63375-504-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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