Second swing and a hard miss.

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KID ALONE

From the Garvie Smith series , Vol. 2

Garvie Smith, the underachieving teen detective, returns in a new mystery with more murder, dangerous intrigue, and highly inconvenient exams.

Fans of Running Girl (2016) will find the mixed-race amateur sleuth and company much the same in this direct sequel, in which Pyotor Gimpel, a Polish boy with Asperger’s who also attends Garvie’s school, is found shot to death in a storage facility. True to form, Garvie abandons his already-small inclination to complete his exams, jeopardizing his future prospects, in order to solve this far more interesting whodunit puzzle, even as the recently demoted Sikh D.I. Singh tries in vain to keep Garvie out of it. Where Mason has added some depth to several aspects of Garvie’s world, including a closer look at his relationship with his Barbadian mother (his white father has abandoned the family), much of this sequel has disappointingly managed to outpace the problems of the first installment. The inclusion of a neurodivergent character as a murder victim, whose homicide is only solvable due to the particular behavioral manifestations of his autism-spectrum disorder, smacks of lip-service representation and lazy craft reliant on stereotype shorthand. Confusing elements such as the misrepresentation of Polish ethno-nationality as a racial identity also muddy the waters, and the juxtaposed-but-unexplored relationships of several different (Polish, Pakistani, Bajan) immigrant-family dynamics feel like a missed opportunity in a narrative where diverse cultural tensions are so largely at play.

Second swing and a hard miss. (Mystery. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03649-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: David Fickling/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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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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