A steamy, straight-to-Netflix teen romance.

KISSING LESSONS

A teen with a promiscuous reputation is hired for lessons on seduction and falls for her client’s brother.

Independent 18-year-old Hayden Vargas looks forward to leaving behind her judgmental high school classmates and neglectful mother to pursue her dream of becoming a tattoo artist. Every penny counts toward her dream, and when Emmaline Martin offers her money to teach her how to attract boys, Hayden struggles to turn her down. Popular classmate Nolan Martin has made it his mission to care for his family since his father’s death, so when he notices his younger sister, Emmaline, hanging out with Travis High School’s bad girl, he becomes suspicious and overprotective. But his attempts at intervention only result in him growing fonder of Hayden, who surprises him as she opens up. Points of view mainly shift between Hayden and Nolan but also focus, less frequently, on Emmaline and Beau—Nolan’s best friend, whose reputation at school mirrors Hayden’s. Despite cookie-cutter characterization, Jordan’s handling of themes surrounding teen relationships, such as the double standard of girls being sluts versus boys being players, is honest. The only kissing lessons involve girls practicing on one another at a sleepover, which later leads two of them to explore their mutual attraction. The sweetness of the happy ending does not make up for its abruptness, unfortunately. Characters are assumed white except for Hayden, who is cued as Latinx.

A steamy, straight-to-Netflix teen romance. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-97707-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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