A little something puerile, amateurish and flat.

A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Hall’s debut is the inaugural release from Swoon Reads, a crowdsourced imprint of Macmillan.

Lea likes Gabe, and Gabe likes Lea, and everyone, including their matchmaking creative-writing professor, a bench on the green and a campus squirrel, wants them to be together. Sounds like a simple love story, but with 14 points of view, it’s anything but. Rather than a little something different, readers are handed a confusing train wreck populated by one-dimensional characters and indistinguishable voices (save the acorn-loving squirrel). Although the narrator of each section is clearly marked, change from one viewpoint to the next knocks readers clear off the page, and disappointingly, none of the dozen-plus voices are those of the would-be lovebirds. Gabe is pathologically shy, but he comes off as pathetically broody, and Lea’s wishy-washy attitude toward him is frustrating. The inclusion of several gay characters and the casual mention of Lea’s Chinese heritage feel forced, and the normalizing use of the phrase “skank queen” to describe the girl her friends view as Lea’s competition for Gabe’s affection is unpleasant. It’s not clear who the intended audience is, as the story is more playground drama than collegiate romance. Readers who live for fun and quirky love stories won’t find one here.

A little something puerile, amateurish and flat. (Romance. 15-19)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-06145-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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ANNA K AWAY

From the Anna K series , Vol. 2

A tale of love and loss that spans the globe.

Instead of having a carefree summer, biracial (Korean/White) Anna is sent away from the familiarity of New York, her friends, the past school year’s scandal—and the memories of her dead boyfriend, Alexia Vronsky. While struggling with grief, her shattered self-image, and an uncertain future, Anna attempts to reclaim her summer in Seoul, where she knows only her father and grandmother. Beatrice, Alexia’s cousin, juggles her clingy girlfriend and falling for a California surfer even as she represses her grief. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, plans for an amazing summer party, although Lolly, his girlfriend, is away at theater camp. Steven’s best friend, Dustin, and Kimmie, Lolly’s younger sister, are equally nervous about their first sexual experience together. This sequel to Anna K (2020) contains fewer mentions of luxury brands, and the characters exhibit an increased awareness of the impacts of wealth and socio-economic status. The novel also touches on issues of addiction, sexism, cultural differences, fame, relationships, love, and mental health; in particular, the portrayals of living with grief and redefining the self after a loved one dies shine. Despite some awkward time skips, the humor, pop-culture references, and characters’ distinct voices strengthen the story. Fans of the first novel will enjoy this follow-up, which is also accessible to readers new to Anna and her world. Some major characters are White; Dustin is Black and Jewish, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Entertaining. (cast of characters) (Fiction. 15-18)

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23646-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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