A thriller that fails in cohesiveness and forward momentum


Muslim teen Salma Bakkioui, a hacker and high school senior, experiences the fallout from growing Islamophobia in her neighborhood and at school.

Salma has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and lives with her mother (a white Muslim convert), father (who is North African Berber), paternal grandmother, and two younger sisters. First she must say goodbye to her best friend, Mariam Muhammad, whose family moves to Dubai because anti-Muslim sentiment makes it hard for her father to make a living in Arlington, Virginia. Then, following explosions in Washington, D.C., and a bomb threat at school, Salma and her boyfriend, Amir, become suspects. Meanwhile, new white neighbors have moved into the Muhammads’ old house next door, and although they seem very nice, Salma has her suspicions. She takes on the seemingly impossible and very risky task of investigating who is framing her and Amir. York Lumbard’s (The Gift of Ramadan, 2019, etc.) characters are not fully developed: Salma exhibits little growth or change over the course of the story, and Amir’s lack of flaws makes him feel two dimensional. There is a lack of consistency when it comes to defining Islamic terms. While the author correctly clarifies that “Allahu akbar” is “completely nonthreatening,” the assertion that it is “not always religious. Sometimes it’s just the equivalent of yelling ‘Awesome!’ ” is questionable. The novel moves slowly, with numerous digressions that are not well integrated and that pull readers away from the main storyline.

A thriller that fails in cohesiveness and forward momentum . (Thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-64425-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.


Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner


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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