Lighthearted and fluffy, this is both a wonderful immersion in Shakespeare and a great beach book.



What do Shakespeare, Clueless, and Punk’d have in common? This novel.

Cass, a Springsteen-loving white actress from New Jersey, just landed her pre-college dream job playing the lead in Taming of the Shrew at Vermont’s premier outdoor Shakespeare theater, which comes with the added bonus of escaping the aftermath of her parents’ tumultuous divorce. Much as 10 Things I Hate About You does on film, Strohm’s latest novel (Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, 2013, etc.) deftly fuses Shakespeare’s play about the battle of the sexes with pop culture and romantic comedy. Since the aforementioned play is actually performed onstage here rather than merely referenced, readers become audience members, drawn into the beauty of the Bard’s language and the zaniness of backstage drama. A car accident becomes a meet-cute with a sarcastic and infuriating New Yorker, who turns out to be Drew, her leading man in the upcoming production. To teach him a lesson, Cass decides to “tame” Drew by playing pranks on him, much as his character does to hers. While the plot outcome is to be expected, a novel of this sort is more about the journey than the destination, and Cass and Drew’s repartee makes the journey well worth taking. What this breezy novel captures particularly well is the joy of theater, which lets you “lose yourself in someone else’s life.” While the cast is not notably diverse, it does include many recognizable theater types.

Lighthearted and fluffy, this is both a wonderful immersion in Shakespeare and a great beach book. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0215-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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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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