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MIDNIGHT BEAUTIES

From the Grim Lovelies series , Vol. 2

A satisfying conclusion.

A girl struggles with what she is: not animal, not human, not witch.

The conclusion to Shepherd’s (Grim Lovelies, 2018, etc.) duology begins six weeks after the siege of Montélimar. Rennar’s crows surround Anouk’s home, where she is now trapped, her plans to study magic at an academy having stalled. When Rennar, crown prince of the Shadow Royals, shows up at her door, a shoe missing and fear in his eyes, something is clearly wrong. Despite her suspicions, Anouk bargains with him for a chance to rescue her friends, become a witch, and gain power. Readers familiar with the first volume will enjoy this final leg of Anouk’s journey in which enemies become family and the powerless become powerful. Her transformation is the central theme of the story: Anouk feels “tired of living in a world where girls were so expendable.” The love triangle skews toward the boy who offers the more emotionally healthy choice, though he is prone toward saccharine declarations. Moving from Paris to London, the story highlights major landmarks that help ground readers in the setting. Sexual diversity features prominently, from a trans character from the last book taking on a larger role to the heartache of a gay boy in love with his straight, male best friend. Although many of the witches and Royals tend toward white, there are a few racially diverse characters.

A satisfying conclusion. (Urban fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-81190-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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