A not entirely successful trip back in time to when teenagers thought problems could be solved with a really great mix tape.

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Carrie's life fell apart when her sister died, and she isn't sure how to put it back together again.

For the last couple of years, Carrie's life has been tortuous to navigate. After her sister's death, the family slowly dissolved into grief, and Carrie's intense fits of rage didn't help. Then her mother left on a retreat and didn't come back. Now, Carrie, her younger sister, Rosie, and her father, all white, must face the repercussions of trauma on their own, and they're not doing very well. Carrie finds solace in her sister's older, primarily white friends, who help her deaden feelings of guilt with drugs and alcohol during parties in the basement of Korean-American Soo. When the floppy-haired white boy next door proves to be not only good-looking, but also a nice guy with great taste in music, things start looking up. But it will take Carrie’s sentence to a rehabilitative work program and confronting the truth of the night her sister died for her to really return from a place of devastating grief. Davis makes the 1980s shine through this dark book with multiple references to popular bands and song lyrics. However, the sheer number of tragic situations makes the whole thing feel overwrought. The writing makes interesting connections between science and teen angst, but the lyrical aspects of the book sometimes feel forced.

A not entirely successful trip back in time to when teenagers thought problems could be solved with a really great mix tape. (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-78506-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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Regardless, readers will likely be so swept up in the romance they can read past any flaws.

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 1

An ultimately compelling exploration of teenage growth and young love.

With her idolized sister Margot leaving for college, Lara Jean doesn’t feel ready for the coming changes: becoming more responsible for their younger sister, Kitty, helping their widowed father, or seeing Margot break up with Josh, the boy next door—whom Lara Jean secretly liked first. But there’s even greater upheaval to come, when Lara Jean’s five secret letters to the boys she’s loved are mailed to them by accident. Lara Jean runs when sweet, dependable Josh tries to talk to her about her letter. And when Peter Kavinsky gets his letter, it brings him back into Lara Jean’s life, all handsome, charming, layered and complicated. They start a fake relationship to help Lara Jean deal with Josh and Peter to get over his ex. But maybe Lara Jean and Peter will discover there’s something more between them as they learn about themselves and each other. It’s difficult to see this book as a love triangle—Josh is bland as oatmeal, and Peter is utterly charismatic. Meanwhile, readers may find that Lara Jean sometimes seems too naïve and rather young for 16—though in many ways, this makes her feel more realistic than many of the world-weary teens that populate the shelves.

Regardless, readers will likely be so swept up in the romance they can read past any flaws. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2670-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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