Thought-provoking if not especially engaging.

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THE JUSTICE PROJECT

A former high school football star attempts to prove a convicted murderer’s innocence while adjusting to a permanent injury.

Champion quarterback Matt Barnes’ life and identity revolved around football. After a snowboarding accident left him with a permanent limp, Matt feels adrift. He finds a new role when he accepts an internship with Justice Project, an organization that defends wrongfully convicted prisoners, and takes on the case of a man serving time for murdering his parents 21 years before. Unfortunately, Matt’s partnered with Sonya, his brilliant, if irritating, rival, and their search for the real killer seems hopeless; the remaining witnesses would rather discuss the state championship than long-ago murders, and promising leads hit dead ends. His hometown’s obsession with football lends sympathy to Matt’s depression and occasional self-pity, and Matt’s halting steps toward self-acceptance are believable. Though Betcherman’s (Face-Off, 2014, etc.) expository prose and dialogue slow the pacing and render emotional topics somewhat flat, his overview of wrongful conviction and its psychological toll on prisoners and their families may compel readers to seek further information. An author’s note explains the real-life cases that inspired the plot and provides links to related websites. Most characters default to white, but naming conventions and hairstyles may be intended to imply some racial or ethnic diversity; Sonya is gay, closeted, and possibly black.

Thought-provoking if not especially engaging. (author’s note) (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2250-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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