A rewarding depiction of a teen fighting isolation and depression.

SMOOTH

Kevin’s terrible acne has survived every cream and facial scrub; next up is Accutane, a medication with a zillion side effects.

At the mandatory monthly blood tests, 15-year-old Kevin befriends Alex, a cute girl from a different school. Kevin becomes obsessed, looking forward to their monthly waiting-room chats and detaching himself from his two best friends, who have joined both the football team and a different social circle. With the first-person narration, readers are, for better or worse, trapped within the lonely teen’s mind as it circles round and round the carousel of depression. Kevin runs scenarios in his head, trying to figure out the best way to impress Alex and turn himself into the kind of person he thinks she will like (or even love). This portrait of teen angst is well drawn but a bit overlong. Kevin wallows in his “woe is me” depths, and while that may be the point (being a teen is uncomfortable; being a teen with severe acne and depressive episodes is hell), readers may have trouble staying on Kevin’s side. Kevin’s friends and family have just enough shading to hint at inner lives but not so much so that Kevin registers them as people instead of obstacles to his own happiness. It’s a tricky balancing act, and the author pulls it off. All main characters are white.

A rewarding depiction of a teen fighting isolation and depression. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0438-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Queer, fluffy fun.

JAY'S GAY AGENDA

Senior year brings an entire list of changes to Jay’s life.

Jay, a gay 17-year-old, experiences a dramatic shift when his mother’s promotion to grocery store district manager transports their family from a small, not-very-diverse town in Eastern Washington to Seattle for his last year in high school. Jay will have to leave his best friend, Lu, but their friendship can survive the distance, right? It also means the chance to cross off items on Jay’s Gay Agenda, a list that ranges from finally meeting another gay boy (after being the only one who is out at his school) to, hopefully, going all the way. Things look up when Jay is taken under the wing of exuberant, genderqueer Max, a new Seattle classmate who helps him make moves toward sexy (and fun) Tony and sexy (and endearing) Albert. The story will amuse readers who are looking for a light read, although the characters at times read more like sitcom versions of teenagers than the real things. While the overall tone is more slapstick and humorous, a subplot concerning orphaned Lu’s financial problems is handled with sensitivity. The coronavirus is mentioned in a context indicating that the story is set in the near post-pandemic future, after quarantines have ended. Most main characters are implied White; Albert is Chinese American, and secondary characters in Seattle reflect the diversity of the city.

Queer, fluffy fun. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301515-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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