A hot mess of a book but weirdly compelling; buy where the first has eager fans.

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UNTOLD

From the Lynburn Legacy series , Vol. 2

Middle-book syndrome strikes hard in this nouveau-gothic paranormal sequel.

Intrepid girl reporter Kami Glass and her allies expect power-hungry sorcerer Rob Lynburn to take revenge after his murderous schemes are thwarted. When a brilliantly creepy Halloween attack is followed by demands for a midwinter human sacrifice, they are left with only weeks to muster their defenses. It’s a promising setup, but the story provides only perfunctory glimpses of intensive historical research, martial arts practice and magical training, devoting chapters instead to relationship angst: friendships tested by unrequited crushes and families riven by lies and divided loyalties. Kami in particular anguishes over both her romantic triangle with the near-identical Lynburn cousins and the magical link with her that both covet. Shifting viewpoints start plot threads that simply disappear, and while the snarky banter is as witty as ever, it sits oddly amid all the interpersonal melodrama and looming danger. The (mostly offstage) villains finally return in a bloody confrontation, with disastrous results only surpassed by the macabre slaughter the supposed good guys inflict on their own side. Everything leads to a gruesome cliffhanger contrived to leave readers desperate for the final volume.

A hot mess of a book but weirdly compelling; buy where the first has eager fans. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87042-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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