A heavy read weighted by intense emotions and grief, the novel sifts through tough memories, searching for the silver lining.

PHANTOM LIMBS

Past and present collide when an old friend comes to town in Garner’s debut.

When Meg Brandt sends Otis Mueller a message notifying him of her return, he can barely believe it. Three years ago, after Otis' little brother, Mason, died, the Brandt family left Chicago, and Otis lost his best friend. Otis is hollow after losing two of the most important people in his life. Without any communication or contact from Meg, Otis has reluctantly moved on, devoting his time to swimming with newfound friend and unofficial coach Dara Svetcova, who struggles with losses of her own. Awaiting Meg's return, Otis wishes to close the chasm between them. Unsure how to balance Dara's military-grade training schedule and his hopes for tentative reconciliation with Meg, Otis has a long summer ahead of him. Otis' fixation on Meg teeters between endearing and obsessive. His awareness of the infatuation tempers inner monologues of constant anguish over the fractured relationship. Motherless Dara, an amputee, is quite the foil, brusquely dismissing heavy emotions and trauma. Feeling threatened by Otis' bond with Meg, she struggles to support his healing process. The inability to let go of the past pushes all three white teens beyond their comfort zones into uncharted territory, Garner slowly and steadily guiding readers through these journeys.

A heavy read weighted by intense emotions and grief, the novel sifts through tough memories, searching for the silver lining. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8205-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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