Too many plotlines, too little nuance.

MAKE SOMETHING OF IT

From the Sharp Sisters series , Vol. 1

In this series opener, Shelby Sharp, the oldest daughter of a Charlotte, North Carolina, mayoral candidate, pursues her fashion-design dream and takes an earnest but simplistic stand against domestic violence.

There are five Sharp sisters, three biological and two adopted, but the others make only sporadic appearances here. The inconsistent attention paid to Shelby’s four younger sisters is typical of the oddly disjointed narrative: The girls are horrified to learn their father will be sending them to public school as a political move, but they acclimate with relatively little trouble. What at first appears to be a story about Shelby’s attempts to stay away from a rival candidate’s dreamy stepson for the good of her father’s campaign abruptly becomes a story about Shelby’s desire to become a fashion designer despite her mother’s wish that she go into law. The narrative voice is similarly clumsy, often providing unnecessary and repetitive explanations (“ ‘It’s not a scarf, Mom. It’s a scart—a scarf-belt,’ I said brazenly, wanting her to use the right name for my design”). Domestic violence is a theme throughout, but it is portrayed with almost cartoonish obviousness. The second and third volumes, Better Than Picture Perfect and Turn Up for Real, publish simultaneously.

Too many plotlines, too little nuance. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4677-4488-1

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Darby Creek

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries.

THE BETRAYED

Lady Hollis flees her country after her new husband is killed.

In The Betrothed (2020), Hollis fell in love with Silas, the son of an Isolten family who sought asylum from their cruel king, and chose him over her intended match, King Jameson. Since Silas, his father, his brothers, and her parents have been killed, she decides to travel to Isolte with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Formerly primarily interested in dresses, dancing, and romance, Hollis now proves her mettle. Etan, Silas’ cousin, arrives to escort the family, and he clashes with Hollis from the moment they meet. The society they live in, modeled after medieval Europe, with castles, tournaments, kings, queens, and nobles, generally follows traditional gender roles, but Hollis sometimes breaks through the accepted boundaries. When Etan wants to lead a revolt against his own King Quinten, who is just one of the novel’s major betrayers, Hollis uses her wits to get the evidence needed to convince others that he is guilty of crimes against his own people. She bravely returns to Coroa to confront King Jameson when she finds out that he, too, has carried out unspeakable crimes. Hollis and Etan’s verbal wars are fun, predictably leading to love, but the political intrigue sometimes drags the novel down. Characters default to White.

Fans of the previous entry will enjoy following the story of a young woman who changes the fates of two countries. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-229166-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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