While not one of his best, this nevertheless is trademark Sedgwick envelope-pushing.

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BLOOD RED SNOW WHITE

Sedgwick plays on the fairy-tale motif to spin an intriguing tale that weaves together a famous children’s writer and the Russian Revolution.

Originally published in 2007 in the U.K., this import tells how Arthur Ransome, British author of children’s books, including the popular series Swallows and Amazons, became a spy as Russia went to war with itself. The book is divided into three distinct parts (just one of many fairy-tale “threes”). Ransome is also the author of Old Peter’s Russian Tales, and the first part of the novel reads like one of his folk tales. Drenched in atmosphere, it gives vivid depictions of snowy Russia while magical scenes set the backdrop of Arthur’s unhappy marriage and move to Russia, eerie portrayals of Rasputin and the czar’s family, and the rise of Trotsky and Lenin. The second part, told in the third person, is taut as Arthur counts down time to a clandestine rendezvous. Flashbacks provide details of his increasingly complicated life, working as a journalist, befriending Bolshevik leaders, falling in love with Trotsky’s secretary, and becoming a pawn for British authorities. The third part, told in Arthur’s voice, loses momentum as the writer inundates readers with the comings and goings of his personal life amid increased spy activity. Substantial backmatter fills in the gaps about the real Ransome.

While not one of his best, this nevertheless is trademark Sedgwick envelope-pushing. (author’s note, timeline, appendix) (Historical fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62672-547-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate.

ALL WE HAVE LEFT

This election cycle, with its exacerbated Islamophobia, makes author Mills' (Positively Beautiful, 2015) fictive meditation on 9/11 and the 15 years after especially timely.

The book opens with Travis McLaurin, a 19-year-old white man trying to protect Alia Susanto, a 16-year-old hijab-wearing Indonesian-American Muslim, from the debris caused by the South Tower's destruction. The next chapter takes place 15 years later, with Travis' younger sister, Jesse, defacing a building with an Islamophobic slogan before the police catch her. The building, readers learn later, is the Islam Peace Center, where Jesse must do her community service for her crime. Between these plot points, the author elegantly transitions between the gripping descriptions of Alia and Travis trying to survive and Jesse almost falling into the abyss of generational hatred of Islam. In doing so, she artfully educates readers on both the aspects of Islam used as hateful stereotypes and the ruinous effects of Islamophobia. With almost poetic language, the author compassionately renders both the realistic lives, loves, passions, and struggles of Alia ("There's a galaxy between us, hung thick with stars of hurt and disappointment) and Jesse ("I'm caught in a tornado filled with the jagged pieces of my life") as both deal with the fallout of that tragic day.

Both a poignant contemplation on 9/11 and a necessary intervention in this current political climate. (timeline, author's note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61963-343-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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