More conceptual than distinct, but accessible and potentially useful.

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BACKLASH

Cyberbullying and a suicide attempt, told from four first-person perspectives.

The dramatic opening finds 15-year-old Lara, “numb with hurt and panic,” talking online with a boy named Christian, her first romance, though she knows him only online. He’s calling her awful, terrible, a loser he’d never take to a dance. “The world would be a better place without you in it,” he types and promptly blocks her. Next, Lara’s sister, Sydney, an eighth-grader, pounds on a locked door behind which Lara has overdosed. As emergency workers carry Lara out on a stretcher, next-door neighbor Bree (also 15) snaps a pic and posts it to Facebook, reveling in the many “likes” it draws. The timeline rewinds two months; Lara, Syd, Bree and Bree’s eighth-grade brother, Liam, alternate narrating. The two families used to be close, and Bree and Lara even used to be good friends. The prose is smooth, though the piece overall is more about ideas—cyberbullying and suicide—than any unique characterization of these white, suburban teens. The parents range from self-centered to actively cruel—Bree’s mother helps Bree fool and taunt Lara—and even Syd repeatedly considers her sister’s pain to be “drama.” The four-narrator structure isn’t entirely emotionally illuminating: Bree never quite makes sense as a character even in her own chapters.

More conceptual than distinct, but accessible and potentially useful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-65126-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss...

TELL ME THREE THINGS

Jessie’s unassimilated grief over her mother’s death makes her dad’s abrupt marriage to Rachel, a wealthy widow he met online, and their subsequent move from Chicago to her mansion in Los Angeles feel like betrayal.

Rachel’s son wants nothing to do with Jessie. Her first week at his private school is agonizing. When she gets an email from “Somebody Nobody,” claiming to be a male student in the school and offering to act as her “virtual spirit guide,” Jessie’s suspicious, but she accepts—she needs help. SN’s a smart, funny, supportive guide, advising her whom to befriend and whom to avoid while remaining stubbornly anonymous. Meanwhile, Jessie makes friends, is picked as study partner by the coolest guy in AP English, and finds a job in a bookstore, working with the owner’s son, Liam. But questions abound. Why is Liam’s girlfriend bullying her? What should she do about SN now that she’s crushing on study-partner Ethan? Readers will have answers long before Jessie does. It’s overfamiliar territory: a protagonist unaware she’s gorgeous, oblivious to male admiration; a jealous, mean-girl antagonist; a secret admirer, easily identified. It’s the authentic depiction of grief—how Jessie and other characters respond to loss, get stuck, struggle to break through—devoid of cliché, that will keep readers engaged. Though one of Jessie’s friends has a Spanish surname, rich, beautiful, mostly white people are the order of the day.

Within the standard-issue teen romance is a heartfelt, wryly perceptive account of coming to terms with irrevocable loss when life itself means inevitable change. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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