A quietly tender, if underwhelming, collection.

DEEP GIRLS

Nine girls struggle with passivity and agency in a collection of thematically linked short stories.

Canadian author Weber (If You Live Like Me, 2015, etc.) uses the stories of nine teenage girls to probe the depths of adolescence and womanhood. The title story follows a girl who is bullied by her looks-obsessed mother and controlling boyfriend; “deep girls are no fun,” he tells her. She dreams of rejecting them and immerses herself in classic literature. In “Out of the Woods,” a girl resents her mother’s agoraphobia and her grandmother’s recent breast cancer surgery; she is left as the maternal figure for them both. “Relativity” follows a babysitter’s crush on her charges’ father and jealousy of their apparently lazy, undeserving mother. The protagonists’ white default becomes explicit when blackness is othered; Southern dialect is rendered with condescending exaggeration. The girls’ movements toward agency are often spurred by a possessive boyfriend or father, but rather than standing up to the male figures in their lives, the girls tend to choose quietly stepping away. It’s a narrative choice that isn’t always satisfying even as it makes space for subtler kinds of female strength in a genre dominated by tough but two-dimensional warrior princesses. Ultimately, the blurred lines between depth, passivity, and weakness too often lead to anticlimax.

A quietly tender, if underwhelming, collection. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77086-531-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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