Readers will likely feel impartial to Arlie, but her story is tense enough to catch an audience. (Fiction. 13-16)

READ REVIEW

BURN GIRL

A teen girl learns she can’t erase her past but she can forgive herself and look hopefully to the future in Mikulencak’s debut novel.

When 16-year-old Arlie Betts finds her mother dead of an apparent drug overdose, Arlie’s life takes a major turn for the better. After being both parent and child most of her life, Arlie now has to trust adults to take care of things. Enter Frank, an uncle Arlie never knew existed. As they learn to relate to each other, stepfather Lloyd, whose meth lab exploded seven years earlier, disfiguring Arlie’s face, arrives and threatens their tenuously happy home. Lloyd demands that Arlie steal money from Frank to settle a debt Arlie’s mother owes him. If Arlie doesn’t comply, Lloyd will destroy everything and everyone Arlie cares about. Although her story is compelling, Arlie isn’t. Her first-person narration is generic and flat, and her lukewarm personality remains static throughout the novel. Fortunately, the well-drawn supporting characters hold everything together, notably best friend Mo, love interest Cody, and grandmother figure Dora. Frank, however, is the life of the story. As a first-time father to a teen niece he’s just met, he’s a wonderfully awkward mix of clueless and clued-in as he navigates his new role and works to create a home for Arlie.

Readers will likely feel impartial to Arlie, but her story is tense enough to catch an audience. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8075-2217-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure

CITY OF LOST SOULS

From the Mortal Instruments series , Vol. 5

What with the race to save Jace from the new Big Bad, wonderful secondary characters get short shrift.

Clary's long-lost brother Sebastian, raised to be an evil overlord by their father (and Jace's foster father), has kidnapped Jace. While the many young (or young-appearing) protagonists want Jace back, only Clary swoons in constant self-absorption; her relationship angst, resolved two books ago, can't carry volume five the way it did earlier installments. The heroic, metaphysical and, yes, romantic travails of Simon, the daylight-walking, Jewish vampire with the Mark of Cain, would have made a more solid core for a second trilogy then Clary's continuing willingness to put her boyfriend ahead of the survival of the entire planet. The narrative zips from one young protagonist to another, as they argue with the werewolf council, summon angels and demons, fight the "million little paper cuts" of homophobia, and always, always negotiate sexual tension thick enough to cut with an iratze. Only the Clary perspective drags, focusing on her wardrobe instead of her character development, while the faux-incestuous vibes of earlier volumes give way to the real thing. The action once again climaxes in a tense, lush battle sequence just waiting for digital cinematic treatment. Clever prose is sprinkled lightly with Buffy-esque quips ("all the deadly sins....Greed, envy, gluttony, irony, pedantry, lust, and spanking").

Fans of the familiar will find this an unchallenging goth-and-glitter pleasure . (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1686-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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