A nifty idea clumsily executed.

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THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED

From the Dispossessed Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A newish supernatural being arrives in this straight-out gothic saga.

Gargoyles, forced to protect humans from demons, lurk overhead on the old Gothic church in Paris bought by a titled English family in 1899. Gargoyle Luc tries to protect the family’s two daughters as they roam Paris looking for their missing brother, Grayson. Proper in name only, Ingrid, 17 and the story’s main heroine, doesn’t bother with chaperones, while Gabby, at 15, dresses in a sexy red dress and goes out to visit men alone. Meanwhile, hellhounds are slaughtering Paris’ population of young ladies. Readers learn early that Grayson is a prisoner in the Underneath, where gargoyles and humans cannot go. Luc can’t seem to do his protecting job properly even with the help of the Alliance, a group of humans who also fight demons. Forbidden romance and hot kissing scenes abound. Gargoyles are not yet overexposed in books for teens, and Morgan’s description of the Underneath also stands out as inventive. However, the gothic genre leads her into the usual conventions of sentence fragments and hyperbole (“Hesitation meant death”). Her execution of the story comes across as awkward and inexpert, with much repetition. The concept may be somewhat new, but the plotline could have been lifted from any 1930s monster movie, including the villain who obligingly explains all before attacking.

A nifty idea clumsily executed. (Paranormal suspense. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74311-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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