Despite some pacing hiccups, a series ender packed with action, scary enemies, and satisfying character arcs.

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HEART OF THE STORM

From the Undertow Trilogy series , Vol. 3

Half-human, half-Sirena white teenager Lyric faces the biggest threat to the world yet in this trilogy closer.

The story jumps timelines by chapters that alternate between a present time and the three months between the present time and the end of Raging Sea (2016). In the present, a shell-shocked Lyric has clearly been through hell but has emerged again from the depths of the ocean, bearing terrible news of a new existential threat, far worse than the Rusalka or Undine. In the three-months-prior storyline, Lyric encounters an intelligent Rusalka who keeps her alive in the face of mad Minerva’s wrath and helps her learn more about Alpha mythology and the magic gloves that tether her to Husk. The alternating storylines don’t always work well together—the present one prevents surprises in the past storyline and unnecessarily prolongs the wait for details on the long-hinted-at threat. Once Lyric reunites with her cast of supporting characters and their land-based enemies start moving, the story picks up. The romantic storyline starts with the love triangle between Lyric and stoic Alpha warrior-prince Fathom and the sweet, hot geek hybrid Riley but then concludes in a way that’s as unexpected as it is satisfying, coinciding with character growth and development.

Despite some pacing hiccups, a series ender packed with action, scary enemies, and satisfying character arcs. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-34867-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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