A realistic romance illuminating the difficulties of experiencing discrimination while reaching for a dream (Fiction. 14-18)

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Zelda Bailey-Cho dreams of comedy fame, but are the obstacles worth the fight?

Will the rules of improv help Zelda through a turbulent summer at the improv camp founded by her idol? Zelda is surprised to learn she’s one of just five girls in a sea of 200 male campers. Luckily, the girls in Gilda Radner cabin quickly form an emotional support system. Talented and driven, Zelda earns a spot on the camp’s elite improv team and falls for her tall, blond coach, Ben. At first excited and then confused and horrified, Zelda struggles to manage her cabin mates’ high expectations, Ben’s advances, and unchecked sexual harassment from her male teammates. She always knew that being female in the comedy world would be challenging, but how can she balance standing up for herself and being a trailblazer? Strong character development and exploration of timely topics make this novel shine despite its being somewhat weakened by unbelievable plot points and a tidy ending. Thoughtfully created diverse characters, who are specifically described and involved in both queer and straight relationships, model navigating social situations without assuming norms, whether relating to sexual identity labels or family structure. Most heartening of all, Zelda’s second chance at love provides a healthy counterpoint to Ben’s abusive behavior. Curly haired Zelda, who is white, is part of a blended Korean Scottish family.

A realistic romance illuminating the difficulties of experiencing discrimination while reaching for a dream (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4084-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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