A fantasy for thoughtful readers.

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THE HEARTWOOD CROWN

From the Sunlit Lands series , Vol. 2

A dying girl, a failing world.

In this sequel to The Crescent Stone (2018), Madeline has returned to Earth still sick after rejecting the Elenil magic that allowed her to breathe freely at the cost of another. However, the crumbling magic system and unfolding secrets draw her back to the Sunlit Lands. Though Madeline is key, the story focuses on Shula Bishara, a Syrian refugee and ex-Elenil soldier; Jason Wu, the boy who pledged never to lie; and Darius Walker, Madeline’s ex and a Black Skull. The main plot points are blatantly laid out—no need to guess who will die at the end—but it is the journey and the choices made along the way that make this story shine. Despite prophecies, fire powers, a magical sword, and the silliness of a kitten-sized rhinoceros, these are sympathetic teens who struggle to make hard decisions in lives complicated by revenge, guilt, and sacrifice. More so than in the previous book, this volume focuses on parallels with current race relations and considers modern history and literature from the viewpoint of the disenfranchised and oppressed. Madeline is white, and there is ethnic diversity in the rest of the cast. Navigating this world and its characters may be daunting for those seeking a quick read, but others will find much to delve into and unpack.

A fantasy for thoughtful readers. (notes, cast of characters, appendix, lexicon, legends, poem, excerpts, stories) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4964-3175-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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