Suspenseful and romantic, if often overwrought.

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NEVER APART

In this YA paranormal romance, a teenage girl tries to escape a recurring, five-day time loop that always ends with her boyfriend’s murder.

Grace Freeman, 17, of the town of Boone, Georgia, has died 41 times and woken up 42. On each occasion, she’s found herself in a different timeline—or perhaps an alternate universe—with many altered details. For example, sometimes her twin brother, Jem, is alive, sometimes not. After waking from each “Fall,” as she terms it, Grace has five disorienting days before she and her boyfriend, Ander Hale, are chased down by another teenager, Finn. These three alone recognize the pattern, and no matter how the couple tries to avoid it, Finn always ends up killing Ander. Despite their pleas, all Finn says is “We all have to pay for what we did”—whatever that means. Before the first Fall, Grace, Jem, and Ander had been an inseparable trio since childhood, but their closeness was threatened by a few problems: Ander’s drinking, which was worrisomely like his father’s; Grace’s possible acceptance at Alton Preparatory for her senior year, which would have taken her away from Boone; and Finn’s irresistible beauty and arrogance. But on this 42nd wake-up, something’s different: Ander doesn’t remember what’s happening, and other strange things make Grace question her sanity. She has only days to prevent Ander’s murder, stop Finn, and—she hopes—stop Falling. Bernard (Trust Me, 2017, etc.) writes capably from Grace’s overheated, first-person perspective, using highly somatized emotions to prove the heroine’s turmoil: knotted stomach, crawling skin, chills, a tight chest, nausea, clenched teeth. Although the stressful situation (and a final twist) help to justify it, the adolescent melodrama can sometimes feel over the top: a high school breakup means “We were ruined”; news from Alton makes Grace feel “like I was going to shiver into a thousand pieces.” The love triangle plotline is also nothing new, nor are Grace’s fairly standard failings, such as shyness, clumsiness, and an inability to believe that the cute boy likes her. Still, the characterization is thoughtful throughout, and Bernard makes good use of setting to help ground the story.

Suspenseful and romantic, if often overwrought.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63375-822-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2017

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

MALICE

This YA SF novel features a teen who must halt a virus that will kill two-thirds of humanity.

In Silver Oak, Maryland, Alice Sherman is a high school junior enjoying lunch near her campus basketball court. With her is Archie, her brother, a senior and science prodigy who likes equations more than his fellow students. Alice has been Archie’s one true friend since their mother left six years ago. Alice is about to catch up with Lalana Bunyasarn, her best friend, when a sudden “streak of electricity zaps through” her head. The agony intensifies until a Voice enters Alice’s mind, asking her, “Do you want this pain to stop?” The Voice then instructs her to go up to Bandit Sakda, a classmate playing basketball, and say that she loves him. Bandit is a beautiful Thai boy who’s talented and arrogant. Strangely, the Voice calls her Malice and says not to fall for him because “it’ll only make what you have to do later harder.” Eventually, Alice learns that the Voice belongs to someone from 10 years in the future who needs help saving humanity. A virus will be created by a person Alice knows that will wipe out two-thirds of the world population. Following the Voice’s directions can save everyone—except the person Alice is ordered to kill. Dunn’s (Star-Crossed, 2018, etc.) latest YA adventure offers increasingly tantalizing twists that gleam in succession like nested matryoshka dolls. Alice will charm readers with her quirks, especially her devotion to Chris Hemsworth of Marvel’s Avengers films. Tension builds as characters in the large cast, including crushworthy Zeke Cain and the brilliant Cristela Ruiz, become potential targets for Alice’s mission. Details about Thai culture add a splendid dimension to the narrative; for example, Bandit is pronounced “bun-dit” and means “one who is wise.” While the notion of a high school killer may not sit well with some, the author doesn’t use the device lightly. Her book takes a strong anti-bullying stance, doing so through an entertaining narrative that doesn’t resort to preaching. The author’s heart and craftiness make a sequel welcome.

Well-drawn characters and playful twists keep this thriller fully charged.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-412-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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