An atmospheric, refreshing read that will resonate with readers from towns both small and large.

READ REVIEW

SEEING OFF THE JOHNS

Loss, love, and coming of age meet in a small, hormone-charged (fictional) Texas town.

After a debut collection of short stories for adults (Along These Highways, 2012), Perez offers a teen novel that begins in the summer of 1998, when John Mejia and John Robison, two all-star athletes from Greenton, die in a fatal car accident on the way to Austin, where they were supposed to start what would certainly have been the next chapter of their legendary lives at the University of Texas. While the whole town mourns the Johns’ deaths, Concepcion “Chon” Gonzalez, a character who might remind readers of a Texan Oscar Wao, thinks of only Araceli Monsevais, “Goddess of Greenton and queen of Chon’s dreams” and Mejia’s abandoned girlfriend. Despite occasional pacing lulls and choppy transitions, Perez successfully zooms out to share the goings-on, mostly relevant, in a town that’s grooming new athletes and amid families that are coping with grief for lost sons before narrowing his focus again to Chon’s deliberate, at times nonexistent advances toward Araceli. The balance between Tex-Mex dialogue and omniscient narration is handled with ease, and the sex-fueled moments—from blow-job scenes to relationships with minors—only add to the sensation of feeling stuck and limited in Greenton. There’s no clear explanation as to why the novel’s protagonist was given what’s typically a woman’s name meaning “immaculate conception.”

An atmospheric, refreshing read that will resonate with readers from towns both small and large. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1941026-11-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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