The fantasy elements remain as murky as they are inessential to a story that is really more about high schoolers poised to...

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FIRE

From the Engelsfors Trilogy series , Vol. 2

The intricate relationship chess that sets the opener of this teens-vs.-demons import apart really takes over in the projected trilogy’s middle volume.

The five young Swedes previously given paranormal powers and designated by enigmatic “guardians” as Chosen Ones (The Circle, 2013) are thoroughly enmeshed in emotional turmoil fostered by the sprawling cast of questionable boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, vicious bullies, troubled parents and hostile townsfolk. This so preoccupies them that both the arrival of an investigator bent on punishing any unauthorized magic working and the imminent prospect of the world’s destruction by otherworld demons seem mere distractions. Still struggling with personality conflicts as well as grief months after the murders of two confederates, the five survivors are slow to notice that a “Positive Engelsfors” movement is turning nearly everyone in the town into zombielike conformists—blind to, and even participating in, a rising tide of sudden deaths and vandalism. Eventually, following an eye-opening round of bespelled mutual body switching, the teenage world savers narrowly avert a mass killing that would have touched off the apocalypse and in the process, form bonds that leave them at least somewhat readier to face the final reckoning to come.

The fantasy elements remain as murky as they are inessential to a story that is really more about high schoolers poised to emerge from tough adolescences than magic. (Fantasy/horror. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0672-9

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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