A bloody and bold tale for those who want some Romero with their Romeo, but resolution awaits a sequel.

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BRIGHT SMOKE, COLD FIRE

Young lovers and enemies try to save the city in this dystopian spin on Romeo and Juliet.

In a Ruined world, the Sisters of Thorn protect the lone city of Viyara with a magic wall sustained by human blood, but orphaned novice Runajo (the book’s Rosaline) hopes to restore the failing barrier via lost spells from the long-sealed Sunken Library. Ruthless and tiresomely righteous, Mahyanai Runajo magically bonds with the Juliet—the Catresou’s magically modified, martially trained, lethal young woman—and overcomes her qualms about necromancy and slavery in order to exploit the Juliet’s unwilling obedience in a claustrophobic and combative relationship. Hapless co-narrator Catresou Paris simultaneously mind-melds with the grief-stricken Mahyanai Romeo, and the duo plunges into the chaotic, colorful Lower City, seeking to avenge the Juliet’s alleged death and expose a necromancer through scary (if slapstick) misadventures. Old feuds and entrenched beliefs prove bigger obstacles than omnipresent but impermanent death—the protagonists rely on rituals even as revenants, reapers, and the reanimated clash with the remaining humans. Hodge puts secondary characters center-stage, lards the text liberally with Shakespeare quotes, and adds the undead, buckets of blood, and an impending apocalypse to create a rich, if repetitive retelling. Her worldbuilding emphasizes family over race; the Mahyanai are dark-haired and fair-skinned, while the Catresou go masked (though the Juliet is fair-skinned).

A bloody and bold tale for those who want some Romero with their Romeo, but resolution awaits a sequel. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236941-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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