A quietly absorbing journey.

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UNBREAK MY HEART

Clementine Williams, 16, heartbroken and guilt-ridden, could use some personal space to figure things out, but confined with her family on a 42-foot sailboat for a summer-long trip down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the Great Loop route, privacy is in short supply.

Estranged from her lifelong best friend Amanda and confused by her forbidden, now-severed relationship with Ethan, Clem withdraws from family activities, curling up in her tiny cabin with iPod and journal. Her worried, loving parents and little sister, Olive, fail to draw Clem out of her self-imposed isolation, though the peaceful, scenic river life soothes her. But it’s James, 17, the tall, red-headed artist on a parallel trip with his dad, who gives her the new perspective she needs to begin healing. Interspersed with this account, the events leading to Clem’s present misery unfold in flashbacks. Fully realized and authentic, she behaves and responds like a genuine teen. (Ethan is the exception among a cast of believable characters: why, after pursuing Clem steadily, did he abruptly withdraw?) Walker’s compassion and emotional insight, lauded in her well-received Small Town Sinners (2011), are strengths, as is the setting. From vessels named with groan-inducing puns like Sea Ya to the challenges of shipboard sanitation, she brings the insulated boating world to life with knowledgeable affection.

A quietly absorbing journey. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-528-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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