Teens who enjoy snarky commentary on high school life may be satisfied with these shortcuts, but Norton doesn't open any new...

NEANDERTHAL OPENS THE DOOR TO THE UNIVERSE

All the tropes of YA fiction—suicide, depression, drug abuse, bullying, problems of race, class, and gender, high school cliques, and their ensuing drama—are exploited in this mildly entertaining novel.

Sixteen-year-old Cliff is a basically likable teen, but with a passive mother, alcoholic father, and dead brother, he has issues to work through, not least of which is his size. At 6 feet 6 inches tall and 250 pounds, he’s earned the unwelcome nickname “Neanderthal.” When Aaron, one of Cliff's tormentors, returns to Happy Valley High School following a coma-induced change of heart, he insists that God has given him a list of tasks that he and Cliff must complete together. The boys' rapid change from animosity to friendship as they work on the list is convenient but unlikely. The romantic threads in the story are equally unrealistic, serving mostly as a way to introduce sexual fantasy into the narrative. All this is revealed in first-person narration and expletive-laced dialogue. Norton (Marrow, 2015, etc.) seems to be working too hard to be cool. Too much happens, too quickly to these stereotypical characters: jocks, stoners, computer nerds, airhead girls, and Jesus teens. A harsh principal and an English teacher who has lost his passion for teaching have similarly quick attitude adjustments.

Teens who enjoy snarky commentary on high school life may be satisfied with these shortcuts, but Norton doesn't open any new doors to the high school universe. (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-9062-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues...

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THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

He’s in remission from the osteosarcoma that took one of his legs. She’s fighting the brown fluid in her lungs caused by tumors. Both know that their time is limited.

Sparks fly when Hazel Grace Lancaster spies Augustus “Gus” Waters checking her out across the room in a group-therapy session for teens living with cancer. He’s a gorgeous, confident, intelligent amputee who always loses video games because he tries to save everyone. She’s smart, snarky and 16; she goes to community college and jokingly calls Peter Van Houten, the author of her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction, her only friend besides her parents. He asks her over, and they swap novels. He agrees to read the Van Houten and she agrees to read his—based on his favorite bloodbath-filled video game. The two become connected at the hip, and what follows is a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance. From their trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive Van Houten to their hilariously flirty repartee, readers will swoon on nearly every page. Green’s signature style shines: His carefully structured dialogue and razor-sharp characters brim with genuine intellect, humor and desire. He takes on Big Questions that might feel heavy-handed in the words of any other author: What do oblivion and living mean? Then he deftly parries them with humor: “My nostalgia is so extreme that I am capable of missing a swing my butt never actually touched.” Dog-earing of pages will no doubt ensue.

Green seamlessly bridges the gap between the present and the existential, and readers will need more than one box of tissues to make it through Hazel and Gus’ poignant journey. (Fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-525-47881-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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ANNA K AWAY

From the Anna K series , Vol. 2

A tale of love and loss that spans the globe.

Instead of having a carefree summer, biracial (Korean/White) Anna is sent away from the familiarity of New York, her friends, the past school year’s scandal—and the memories of her dead boyfriend, Alexia Vronsky. While struggling with grief, her shattered self-image, and an uncertain future, Anna attempts to reclaim her summer in Seoul, where she knows only her father and grandmother. Beatrice, Alexia’s cousin, juggles her clingy girlfriend and falling for a California surfer even as she represses her grief. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, plans for an amazing summer party, although Lolly, his girlfriend, is away at theater camp. Steven’s best friend, Dustin, and Kimmie, Lolly’s younger sister, are equally nervous about their first sexual experience together. This sequel to Anna K (2020) contains fewer mentions of luxury brands, and the characters exhibit an increased awareness of the impacts of wealth and socio-economic status. The novel also touches on issues of addiction, sexism, cultural differences, fame, relationships, love, and mental health; in particular, the portrayals of living with grief and redefining the self after a loved one dies shine. Despite some awkward time skips, the humor, pop-culture references, and characters’ distinct voices strengthen the story. Fans of the first novel will enjoy this follow-up, which is also accessible to readers new to Anna and her world. Some major characters are White; Dustin is Black and Jewish, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Entertaining. (cast of characters) (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23646-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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