GOODBYE FROM NOWHERE

How to pretend like everything is fine according to Kyle Baker.

Divided into four parts, Zarr’s (contributor: Life Inside My Mind, 2018, etc.) latest begins with Kyle bringing his first girlfriend, Nadia, to Thanksgiving on his grandparents’ farm. Like any other family, the Bakers have their share of quirky members and nuanced relationships. But to Kyle, they are happy and normal—as normal as his family can be, at least. Then tragedy strikes in Part 2 when Kyle learns that his mother is having an affair and both of his parents instruct him not to tell anyone, including his sisters and girlfriend. Kyle emotionally shuts down, cutting class, avoiding Nadia’s attempts at confrontation, and bailing on his baseball team. The one person Kyle longs to confide in is his cousin Emily, who is asexual and/or aromantic and who doesn’t live nearby. While bearing the burden of his parents’ secret, he discovers that his grandparents plan on selling their farm. Some readers may resonate with Kyle’s difficulty at navigating frustration with his parents and loneliness within his own family, but his intense feelings of intimacy toward Emily, prompting his sister to joke about marriage between cousins, may prove off-putting, and his overall character arc is lacking in resolution. Most main characters are cued as white; some of Kyle’s relatives are Mexican American, and there is implied diversity in the supporting cast.

A lukewarm family drama. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243468-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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 satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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