Savell offers readers hope within grim realism, though the flights of lyricism can detract from it

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A friendless 17-year-old hard case meets a softhearted young man and his dying grandmother, and it may change her path.

Michelle despises her single mother, dislikes her school therapist, hates her classmates and loathes her convenience-store job. She’s unused to caring about the opinions of anyone until Nathaniel—a towering young man, as sweet as he is huge—comes to work at the store. Somehow Michelle finds herself wanting to live up to Nathaniel’s expectations. In an unreliable first-person narration that sacrifices clarity for metaphor (“Straight as a pine tree and just as scented, she gives me the stalker stare, eerie smile pulled like wet gum across her narrow cheeks”), Michelle fights with everyone but Nathaniel and his hospitalized grandmother. The grandmother sends Michelle on a literary scavenger hunt, which might have been fascinating if it were experienced rather than described peripherally. Meanwhile, Nathaniel convinces Michelle to adopt a subdued nonresponse in the face of her high school bullies. As Michelle mellows, it becomes increasingly clear that her life actually is tragic, and her sulky teen misanthropy is a reasonable reaction to a rotten life—a refreshing take.

Savell offers readers hope within grim realism, though the flights of lyricism can detract from it . (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60542-690-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Medallion Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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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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Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun.

THE LIFE BELOW

From the Final Six series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Final Six (2018) raises the stakes for its spacefaring teen astronauts.

Naomi Ardalan and the other Final Six are on their journey to colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa, leading the way for humans to eventually leave a dying Earth. Naomi is the only one in the group who knows that the leaders of the International Space Training Camp are keeping the truth from them, and it is down to her to discover whether there is alien life on Europa before they land. Back on Earth, and unbeknownst to the crew, left-behind recruit Leo Danieli works with genius doctor Greta Wagner to launch a solo mission to intercept and join Naomi’s ship in order to bring them news that not only is there definitely life on Europa, but they are set to land in its most dangerous zone. As the two missions and alternating narratives converge, the unthinkable happens—and everything changes. Fast-paced and plot-driven, the novel decidedly veers into science fiction horror territory with plenty of scares that readers willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the teenagers-in-space setup are likely to enjoy. The syrupy romance between Leo and Naomi continues, and a new layer is added to the story with a frustratingly too-brief examination of colonization and first contact. Naomi is Iranian American, Leo is Italian, and the human cast is international.

Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun. (Science fiction horror. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265897-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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