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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An overall entertaining read.

THE PRETENDERS

From the Similars series , Vol. 2

In this sequel to The Similars (2018), tensions rise as the villains reveal a ploy to exact revenge on the Ten and their families and ultimately take over the world.

When Emma Chance returns to her elite boarding school, Darkwood Academy, for her senior year, things are different: Her best friend, Ollie Ward, is back while Levi Gravelle, Ollie’s clone and Emma’s love interest, has been imprisoned on Castor Island. More importantly, Emma is coming to terms with the contents of a letter from Gravelle which states that she is Eden, a Similar created to replace the original Emma, who died as a child. To complicate matters further, other clones—who are not Similars—infiltrate Darkwood, and Emma and her friends uncover a plot that threatens not only the lives of everyone they care about, but also the world as they know it. Hanover wastes no time delving right into the action; readers unfamiliar with the first book may get lost. This duology closer is largely predictable and often filled with loopholes, but the fast-paced narrative and one unexpected plot twist make for an engaging ride. As before, most of the primary characters read as white, and supporting characters remain underdeveloped. Despite its flaws and often implausible turns of events, the novel calls attention to larger questions of identity, selfhood, and what it means to be human.

An overall entertaining read. (Dystopia. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6513-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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