This story (and sequels) will undoubtedly enthrall readers seeking a torrid, tortured romance in a trendy setting; still, a...

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FLAME IN THE MIST

In a historical fantasy inspired by feudal Japan, the daughter of aristocrats finds a place among sort-of-ninjas akin to Robin Hood’s band.

Hattori Mariko, barely 17, is resentful but resigned to an imperial marriage. When her caravan is waylaid, she seizes the chance to become something else. Disguised as a boy, she infiltrates the notorious Black Clan to investigate why they undertook her murder; but she is not prepared for the secrets she uncovers…especially about herself. Ahdieh’s follow-up to her superlative two-part Arabian Nights retelling, The Wrath and the Dawn (2015) and The Rows and the Dagger (2016), is equally rich in legendary glamour and again features convoluted political intrigue and star-crossed romance between a clever heroine and brooding hero. Unfortunately, the author’s extensive research results less in a sensuous, subtly constructed background than in obtrusive dumps of vocabulary and exposition. Truncated paragraphs and sentence fragments are overused to simulate dramatic tension. Mariko constantly complains of sexist oppression, but the story shows her held back mostly by her own vacillation. She is, however, amazingly ingenious, inventing an entire arsenal of ninja-style weaponry in a matter of weeks. The hints of magic are frustratingly arbitrary and vague, and the motives of the villain(s?) utterly opaque right up to the cliffhanger ending.

This story (and sequels) will undoubtedly enthrall readers seeking a torrid, tortured romance in a trendy setting; still, a disappointment from an author capable of so much more. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17163-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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