A fascinating premise and plenty of action will attract fans who have patience for all the many extra threads.

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BOY ROBOT

The first of a planned trilogy by recording artist Curtis, this debut novel continues themes from his early song of the same title.

“There once was a boy / Who was made, not created” begins the song on “8Bit Heart” (2010), Curtis’ first album. Continuing the narrative of a created boy is Isaak, adopted into a family in a tiny Ozarks town and now kicked out of the house by his adoptive mother, who sees him as a monster. Isaak has always felt disconnected and alone, and now he must begin a journey in search of himself. It turns out he’s a Robot, created, he is told, in a secret project to create a race of synthetic humans meant to be “soldiers, designed to spare human casualties in future wars.” As he and a band of allies in the Underground are pursued by Sheriffs intent on reclaiming them, Isaak realizes he has unusual powers that make him dangerous. Isaak’s frequently overwrought first-person narrative is complemented by related stories that introduce other characters and lend history and context but detract from the pull of his story, making it difficult for readers to be fully involved in it and its themes of humanity, love, and connectedness. Isaak does not describe himself, though he does describe other characters' appearances, including skin color.

A fascinating premise and plenty of action will attract fans who have patience for all the many extra threads. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5929-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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