Best of all are the characters, particularly Ling, shown in all their flaws and glories, very much like a painting by Stubbs.

READ REVIEW

BELLADONNA

A story as carefully and beautifully rendered as the anatomical studies that inspired it.

When Thomas Rose, "unteachable as a rabbit plucked by its ears from the market," is kicked out of grammar school in rural England, 1757, he faces an uncertain future. Though he works hard, he doesn't love the family wheelwright trade, and becoming a glover like his grandfather would be worse. Yet he must do something. A chance encounter with a young acrobat—Hélène, who goes by the stage name Ling—leads him to join a search for her missing circus horse, Belladonna, which in turns leads him to an unsettling apprenticeship under a man named George Stubbs. Stubbs' fame as the greatest painter of horses in history is far in the future; for now, he's dissecting rotting horse cadavers in order to fully understand their anatomy. Thomas needs a strong stomach as well as strong arms. Meanwhile, Ling fights not only for her mare but for her very survival; her history, gradually revealed, shows how completely alone she is. The plot flows slowly but gracefully, culminating in a realistic ending that offers hope without pat solutions. Thomas' voice is thoroughly grounded in time and place, with a sense of history that informs but never overwhelms.

Best of all are the characters, particularly Ling, shown in all their flaws and glories, very much like a painting by Stubbs. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5106-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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