An effective and largely entertaining romp.

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TROUBLE MAKES A COMEBACK

From the Trouble is a Friend of Mine series , Vol. 2

Trouble returns to Zoe’s world.

The absurdly smart teen detective Digby left town months ago, and Zoe has moved on from the adventure they had and the confusing kiss they shared. She’s been preparing for the SATs, getting in with the popular crowd, and dating an athletic quarterback who is the exact opposite of Digby in every way. But of course, Digby comes back to town like a tornado, sweeping Zoe up in another mystery and leaving everything else in her life up in the air. The author bounces her characters off one another in spectacular ways, crafting drama, suspense, love, and exasperation with ease. The first installment in this series owed a great debt to Veronica Mars and Sherlock, but here the characters come in to their own, darting in and out of mischief and mayhem at dizzying speeds and trading verbal jabs along the way. The only real downside to all the fun is the mystery, which isn’t very involving. When the characters are so rich and the dialogue is so much fun, anything that doesn’t spin out of those elements feels a bit bothersome. The mystery adds up however, and the action scenes are crisp and clean. The author signals a third book, and readers will surely want to join Digby and Zoe for another round. Though ethnicity goes largely unmentioned, Zoe’s cover illustration points to Asian heritage.

An effective and largely entertaining romp. (Mystery. 14-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42841-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kathy Dawson/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment.

LADY SMOKE

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 2

A rebel queen fans the sparks of revolution.

Picking up immediately after the events of Ash Princess (2018), Sebastian’s expansive sequel finds young Queen Theodosia—her title newly reclaimed—fleeing her country and throne. With her people still enslaved, Theo will need allies and an army to free them, and her aunt, the fierce and manipulative pirate Dragonsbane, insists that the only way to acquire either is if Theo marries—something no queen has ever done in Astrea’s history. Wracked by nightmares, guilt, and fear that she is losing herself (and more), Theo balks but, with few options open to her, grudgingly agrees to meet with suitors at a grand invitational hosted by the king of the opulent Sta’Crivero. Readers looking for further immersion and expansion of Theo’s world will not be disappointed here. The narrative suffers marginally from lengthy details picked up and soon put back down with no real service to plot or character development, but Theo’s first-person narration remains enthralling with emotional immediacy as she learns more and more about her world and the people (and cruelty) within it. Vengeance, political corruption, and mystery are the main drivers, and questions of trauma, empathy, and sacrifice hold the reigns as Theo grapples with emergent magic, inconvenient romances, and the crushing weight of her choices as a leader.

Packed to the brim with intrigue and the promise of a third installment. (maps) (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6710-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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