The tough truth of marginalized communities attacking their own is difficult to face but accurate in its exposure of toxic...

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From the Orca Soundings series

A gay Toronto foodie translates his love of pastry into love of self amid some mean-boy body shaming.

Seventeen-year-old Theo’s amour for baking doesn’t extend to cardio, so he’s less six-pack abs and more keg. Since Theo lacks the confidence to recognize he’s got noteworthy allure as a baker (and potential boyfriend material), his outrageous bestie, Di, enters him into a cooking (note: not baking) contest. Sweets, not savories, are his forte, but he embraces the opportunity since it’s sponsored by one of the hottest and hottest celebrity faces in the restaurant world, Kyle Carl Clark. Swoon. Theo is the instant dark horse, his recipes as conversely different from his competitors’ as his full-bodied breadth is to their tight pecs and trim waistlines. As the contest evolves, he confronts a barrage of insults and advances (wanted and unwanted), meandering through them to understand himself, his talent, and his take on negative forces within his own community. Short paragraphs and straightforward dialogue make this ideal for reluctant readers. A gay protagonist (and many secondary and tertiary characters) and a drag queen will resonate with an LGBTQ+ audience. Theo is presumably white, as are most characters; a reference to microbraids may imply Di is black, and one contest judge has an Asian Indian surname.

The tough truth of marginalized communities attacking their own is difficult to face but accurate in its exposure of toxic behavior; Theo’s shaky navigation is inspiring. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2082-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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