A nuanced, compassionate exploration of male sexuality and identity.

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SYNCHRO BOY

After Bart, a dancer-turned–competitive swimmer, impulsively joins his Victoria, British Columbia, high school’s all-female synchronized swim team, he finds himself challenging heteronormative expectations both in and out of school.

Even Bart’s reasons for joining synchro—to prove to his former swim coach and homophobic teammates that he’s 100 percent boy and to get closer to Erika, his half-Japanese/half-white duet partner—reflect his awareness of, and susceptibility to, social expectations for young men. Yet, even as he falls for Erika, he falls in love with the sport itself, quickly joining the push to include coed synchro duets in high-level competitions (including, hopefully, the Olympics). Through Bart’s conversational style of narration, McFerran (Girls’ Diary Project, 2014) interrogates toxic masculinity and challenges social expectations for all teens. This is evident both in Bart’s comparison of synchro training to his old swim practices, in which he acknowledges the complex technical skill required for synchro, and in his exploration of the attraction he feels to both Erika and Dave, a boy on the diving team. Though he faces homophobic verbal attacks both at school and at meets, Bart, who is white, is supported by Julia, a gay black teammate. Bart’s eventual acceptance that he is bisexual gives him the confidence to lean into synchro while easing off on the need to validate his own masculinity through sporting achievements.

A nuanced, compassionate exploration of male sexuality and identity. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55152-744-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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