A competent but unremarkable addition to a “nevertheless, she persisted” display.

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TO BEST THE BOYS

To prove herself and seize a chance for her mother, a girl enters a competition traditionally reserved for boys—one that could turn deadly.

Every year, the mysterious Holm offers a contest for “all gentlepersons of university age” to compete for a prestigious scholarship. Tensions are running high in the patriarchal society of Pinsbury Port, which is physically divided into the haves and the have-nots, with the emergence of an unidentified disease that slowly kills its victims. Rhen Tellur seeks a cure for her infected mother: Desperate for access to better resources, she enters Holm’s competition disguised as a boy. Weber (Reclaiming Shilo Snow, 2018, etc.) creates a high-fantasy world that evokes Victorian England but keeps the supernatural creatures, such as ghouls and sirens, roaming the margins. Tan-skinned 17-year-old Rhen is justifiably distraught over her mother’s sickness but cool and calculating when engaged with science. She’s also infatuated with Lute, an attractive, brown-skinned, lower-class boy. “The strangest woman” Lute’s ever met, she prefers spending time in her father’s lab examining blood samples from fresh cadavers over prancing around an upper-crust party. The plot and character development proceed in a predictable manner, making emotional investment in the story difficult for readers. Rhen is dyslexic and Lute’s younger brother has Down syndrome. Racial markers are ambiguous, and the cast seemingly defaults to white.

A competent but unremarkable addition to a “nevertheless, she persisted” display. (author’s note, discussion questions, recipe) (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7180-8096-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

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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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This solid, enchanting fantasy boasts a palpable atmosphere and moves at a breakneck pace.

THE RAVENS

From the Ravens series , Vol. 1

YA all-stars Morgan and Paige team up to present a witchy take on sorority life.

College freshman Vivi Devereaux can’t wait to go to Savannah’s Westerly College and escape the scams her mother has run to make ends meet—most involving tarot card readings—but she quickly stumbles upon a different type of magic. At a rush party for Kappa Rho Nu, she meets junior Scarlett Winter, a charismatic witch in the running to lead the sorority—which is in fact a front for a prestigious coven called the Ravens. At first hesitant, Vivi quickly warms up to the idea of being in a witch sorority, joining her fellow pledges in learning magic and forming tight bonds of friendship. But the coven has an ominous history involving dead sisters and dark magic, and Vivi and Scarlett get caught up in a dangerous, high-stakes mystery, all while balancing school, family issues, and boy trouble. This novel hits its story beats quickly and deftly, unfurling the plot through Scarlett’s and Vivi’s alternating points of view. The magic system is complex and original without being cumbersome, and it expertly conjures a supernatural, uncanny atmosphere intertwined with Greek life. Vivi is White, Scarlett is Black, and the supporting cast contains a range of diverse racial identities.

This solid, enchanting fantasy boasts a palpable atmosphere and moves at a breakneck pace. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-09823-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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