Inspired by a classic, this story is best suited for those eager to revisit romance in the context of Little Women.

JO & LAURIE

Josephine “Jo” March struggles to manage her emotions, write a sequel to her successful novel, and support her poor family financially.

Her editor and readers desire a story of love and marriage, which 18-year-old Jo rejects. Jo refuses marriage for herself and rebuffs the affections of her charming, wealthy, longtime friend Laurie in this spinoff of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women that takes place in 1869, between the publication of the two parts of the original novel. The meticulously imitated historical language includes the perhaps overused exclamation “Christopher Columbus!” Scenes from the classic are reimagined or referred to in ways that alternately stir feelings of nostalgia, confusion, and disappointment over the absence of the rich, nuanced character development found in the original. Readers might also struggle to believe certain plot points, such as the beloved March father's choosing to be an absentee dad or younger sister Amy's falling ill in a manner oddly similar to Beth in the classic. Those who want to believe Jo’s defiance of societal norms might be puzzled by the extent to which she and other members of the “gentle sex” quickly blush in the company of men and are susceptible to jealousy. While some might appreciate this new interpretation, fans of the classic may prefer to stick to their own imaginings. Main characters are white.

Inspired by a classic, this story is best suited for those eager to revisit romance in the context of Little Women. (historical note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1201-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations.

CARAVAL

From the Caraval series , Vol. 1

Magic, mystery, and love intertwine and invite in this newest take on the “enchanted circus” trope.

Sisters raised by their abusive father, a governor of a colonial backwater in a world vaguely reminiscent of the late 18th century, Scarlett and Donatella each long for something more. Scarlett, olive-skinned, dark of hair and attitude, longs for Caraval, the fabled, magical circus helmed by the possibly evil Master Legend Santos, while blonde, sunny Tella finds comfort in drink and the embraces of various men. A slightly awkward start, with inconsistencies of attitude and setting, rapidly smooths out when they, along with handsome “golden-brown” sailor Julian, flee to Caraval on the eve of Scarlett’s arranged marriage. Tella disappears, and Scarlett must navigate a nighttime world of magic to find her. Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. Dresses can be purchased for secrets or days of life; clocks can become doors; bridges move: this is an inventive and original circus, laced with an edge of horror. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets.

Immersive and engaging, despite some flaws, and destined to capture imaginations. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09525-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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