Hasty plot resolution and uneven character development make this myth-inspired teen romance less than heavenly.

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ARROWS

Surprise! Not only are the Greek gods real, but their interference in the love lives of mortals has disastrous consequences. Sound familiar?

In Gorzelanczyk’s debut novel, Aaryn, the son of Eros, is training to become a full god, and making Karma Clark and her homecoming date, Danny Bader, fall in love is his final exam. Unfortunately, love’s arrow strikes only Karma, and Aaryn must mitigate the damage done to her life—teen pregnancy and the loss of her ballet scholarship—by making Danny propose marriage. The story mines some of the same god-human territory as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, but part of those novels’ charms lies in the complicated interplay between lofty Olympus and the mortal world. Both realms must be fully delineated if readers are to care that the protagonist is caught between them. Instead, modern-day Olympus is hastily dispatched to focus on the inevitable Aaryn-Karma-Danny love triangle, which stretches credulity by being told to readers rather than shown. At one point, Karma compares their forbidden friendship/romance to Johnny and Baby from Dirty Dancing, which, rather than heightening the romance, makes it feel like a retread done better elsewhere. Oddly enough, the most authentic character is Danny, the ne’er-do-well jock who prefers beers with friends to diaper duty.

Hasty plot resolution and uneven character development make this myth-inspired teen romance less than heavenly. (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-51044-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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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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