Romance, humor, kindhearted characters, and a touch of painful reality make this another sure bet for Dessen fans.

ONCE AND FOR ALL

Louna finds her cynicism about romance challenged when her family’s wedding business hires Ambrose.

After years facing brides with cold feet and badly behaved wedding guests, Louna has become skeptical about romance and plans on remaining single during her last summer before college. Luckily, the busy wedding schedule provides plenty of legitimate excuses for Louna to avoid opportunities to meet potential dates. That changes when satisfying a particularly fussy bridal party requires hiring the bride’s brother, Ambrose. He’s a lady’s man who typically charms more than one potential date during every social gathering. But he professes honesty about his dating motivations, expresses genuine interest in his dates, and displays a sort of oddly enchanting “aw, shucks” dismissal of his ability to reel in girls. Louna’s outwardly dismayed by his antics, but his clichéd (but adorable) gestures, such as impulsively adopting a rescue dog, begin to win her over. However, Louna’s still tormented by the unexpected death of her first love. Flashbacks to their relationship combined with the way she reluctantly accepts the need to move forward too provide a bittersweet counterpoint to the traditional rom-com storyline. Louna’s lovingly depicted gay godfather provides a bit of diversity in the otherwise apparently straight, white cast.

Romance, humor, kindhearted characters, and a touch of painful reality make this another sure bet for Dessen fans. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-29033-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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A lushly written story with an intriguing heart.

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART

From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 1

After praying to a Fate for help, Evangeline discovers the dangerous world of magic.

When her father passes away, Evangeline is left with her cold stepmother and kind but distant stepsister, Marisol. Despite inheriting a steady trust in magic, belief in her late mother’s homeland of the mystical North (where fantastical creatures live), and philosophy of hope for the future, her dreams are dashed when Luc, her love, pledges to marry Marisol instead. Evangeline desperately prays to the Prince of Hearts, a dangerous and fickle Fate famed for his heart that is waiting to be revived by his one true love—and his potentially lethal kisses. The bargain they strike sends her on a dark and magical journey throughout the land. The writing style fluctuates from clever and original to overly verbose and often confusing in its jumble of senses. While the pervasive magic and concept of the Fates as a religious system add interest, other fantasy elements are haphazardly incorporated without enough time devoted to building a cohesive world. However, the themes of love, the power of story, family influence, and holding onto belief are well rounded and add depth. The plot contains welcome surprises, and the large cast piques curiosity; readers will wish more time was spent getting to know them. Evangeline has rose-gold hair and, like other main characters, reads as White; there is diversity among the fantasy races in this world.

A lushly written story with an intriguing heart. (map) (Fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26839-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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