A smart and snarky finale.

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VICTORIES

From the Shadow Grail series , Vol. 4

Spirit White and her mage schoolmates prepare for a battle royal in this energetic series ender.

Spirit and her friends, Burke, Loch and Addie, escaped the deadly school dance at Oakhurst Academy, but they lost their friend Muirin in the process. After a brief respite, an uninformative conversation with an incorporeal Merlin and the anticlimactic discovery of the Hallows—Arthurian, not Deathly—the teens dutifully troop back to Oakhurst to rescue the other students and prevent Mordred from starting a nuclear war and establishing his medieval empire atop the radioactive ruins. As Reincarnates of King Arthur’s courtiers, Spirit and her friends find both strength and sorrow in the returning memories of their former lives and liaisons. Thrust into responsibility by the convenient absence of adults—as the students were orphaned through the machinations of the Shadow Knights and abused by their teachers—but equipped with magical powers, combat training and newly accessed Arthurian memories, the teens dive back into battle. Exposition is lengthy and the mythology, muddled, and the dialogue swings erratically between modern teenspeak and “High Forsoothly.” The superpowered-teens-and-secret-school thing has been done before, but Lackey and Edghill (Sacrifices, 2013, etc.) save this sequel from stereotype through snappy ripostes, abundant pop-culture references and a strong ensemble.

A smart and snarky finale. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2826-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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