A melodramatic potboiler.

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NOTHING LEFT TO BURN

Two teenage volunteer firefighters seek to find their own meanings of love and family, all while battling a rogue arsonist.

After ending up in the foster-care system, Amanda Jamison has finally found a good home with the Becketts. They’re kind and feed her well, although they have a lot of rules—including a strict “no boys” mandate. Mr. Beckett insists she join the volunteer firefighters, and there she meets gawky, bookish Reece Logan. Reece is a legacy in the company; his father is a chief, and his brother was a revered cadet. When his brother died, though, relations all but froze between him and his father. When he joins the squad, the tension reaches a fever pitch, although all the other cadets—especially Amanda—help him acclimate. As the cadets forge their own bonds, the entire firehouse is threatened when an arsonist begins to set their town ablaze, putting Reece and Amanda in imminent danger. The drama runs high, with tenuous threads—from ill-fated romance to familial drama to a nearly transparent mystery—that never quite seem to weave together into a cohesive story. The characters' emotions often feel contrived and rushed; Reece and Amanda fall instantly in love, declaring their affections before they ever go on a proper date. The highly inflated action and syrupy characters together create a heavily stilted, mawkish, and often highly unbelievable read.

A melodramatic potboiler. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4926-1329-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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