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

READ REVIEW

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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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.

I KILLED ZOE SPANOS

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

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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