Messy and thrilling, flawed and often brilliant.

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THE BORDER

On the run from narcos, four Mexican teens flee home and head to the U.S. in Schafer’s audacious YA debut.

The all-black car lingers. Pato sees it, and the concealed people within, but he sets his worries aside as he joins his family and friends at his cousin’s quinceañera. It happens in an instant: gunshots like firecrackers fill the air. Suddenly, everyone’s gone except for Pato, his best friend, Arbo, tough guy Marcos, and Pato’s obligatory love interest, Gladys. This opening sequence—one among a handful of equally suspenseful scenes, including a car chase in the border town of Sonoyta—makes the quieter, bleaker moments that follow seem all the more intense, stressing the desperate troubles these teens endure. Behind the massacre is a cartel group known as La Frontera, who publicize a reward for the capture of Pato and friends. This bounty scares off the shellshocked teens, sending them across the U.S.–Mexico border and into the blazing Sonoran Desert, where the devastating heat poses more of a threat than the border patrols and coyotes that operate in it. Looming over them in their escape is the uncertainty of life in the U.S., an apprehension that Schafer weaves throughout and summarizes in one raw, timely exchange: “You think they want you in their country? They don’t.” Revelations come in inevitable wallops (why were Pato’s family and friends targeted?). Attempts at humor and fleshing out the bonds between characters sometimes ease things up but not always. This difficult balance is best summed up by Pato and Gladys’ relationship, which is simultaneously out of place and, yet, disarmingly human.

Messy and thrilling, flawed and often brilliant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4683-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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