An enjoyable, if flawed, tale.

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SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT

From the Sisters of Shadow and Light series , Vol. 1

Isolated from the world by a magical barrier, two sisters navigate dangerous changes when a stranger crosses over.

Eighteen-year-old Zuhra lives with her mother and younger sister, Inara, trapped by a sentient hedge in the long-abandoned Citadel of the Paladins. Once, the gryphon-riding warriors chased and defeated the rakasa monsters from their dimension and protected the humans of Vamala, but now they have all but disappeared. Zuhra and Inara share Paladin blood, but Inara’s blue eyes glow with power, repelling their mother, who forbade all things Paladin when the girls’ father disappeared after Inara’s birth. Inara is often lost in her own mind, with only brief moments of lucidity, leaving Zuhra feeling alone, longing for connection. When Halvor, a scholar of the Paladin and the first boy they have ever met, breaches the hedge, Zuhra is intrigued by his revelations of the world and motivated to escape, but the mysteries of the citadel prove more dangerous than any of them know, threatening both realms. Larson’s (Bright Burns the Night, 2018, etc.) narrative of might, magic, and a deep sisterly bond is uneven, with beautiful prose that is repetitive and dual voices that sound very similar. The female characters suffer abuse and isolation, making their longing for romantic connection understandable but leaving them dependent on their male counterparts. Naming conventions pull from different world cultural traditions, but physical descriptions point to whiteness as the standard.

An enjoyable, if flawed, tale. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20840-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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