More conceptual than distinct, but accessible and potentially useful.

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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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Will both entertain and encourage reflection.

CINDERELLA IS DEAD

In Mersailles, “Cinderella” is more than just a fairy tale: It’s the basis for a harsh monarch’s throttlehold on his kingdom.

Sophia is turning 16, the age at which young women must attend King Manford’s annual ball, at which they are scrutinized by and married off to male attendees. Any young woman who has not been claimed after her third ball is destined to spend the rest of her days engaged in hard labor. But being chosen can be its own curse in a society where domestic violence is common. Sophia is a beautiful Black girl in love with dark-haired Erin, one of her best friends. While racial diversity is a natural part of this world, the same acceptance does not exist for those who defy rigid gender norms: Anything other than heterosexual desire is strictly forbidden, and while Sophia wishes to escape as a couple, Erin is too fearful. After fleeing the ball, Sophia stumbles across Cinderella’s mausoleum, hidden in the woods. There she meets rebellious Constance, an attractive young red-haired woman with a very personal motivation for sabotaging the monarchy. As the two grew closer—and sparks fly—they discover secrets that could end Manford’s cruel reign. This promising debut deals with themes around rebellion and empowerment as well as the toll that rejecting the status quo can take on relationships. The atmospheric setting is a particular strength, and the twists and turns will keep readers in suspense.

Will both entertain and encourage reflection. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0387-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2021

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