Despite the title’s plea, there’s not much worth close examination here.

LOOK CLOSER

A swimming prodigy sees vague premonitions of death as she mourns her father.

After her father’s death, Tegan struggles: She lacks motivation to apply to college or swim, a sport at which she excels. Her best friend has moved and she feels isolated at home, where her mother’s new marriage disgusts her. She sees those around her as objects, especially the local homeless population, whom she calls “randoms.” Tegan finds names on a cereal box and her windowsill that lead her to witness a suicide, and soon other names of people about to die appear to her. Tegan’s attempts to save them lead her to renewed connections with her mother and swim coach, romance with a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, and some facile closure about her father. Tegan’s absent best friend, implied black and the sole significant character of color, is portrayed as stereotypically sassy; Tegan cozies up to a popular white girl with a racist history. Descriptions of diverse background characters reinforce the white default and too often fall into tropes. A sexualized joke by Tegan’s male coach and her wearing of her father’s underwear feel off. The people Tegan saves remain two-dimensional vehicles for her own pity and navel-gazing. A potentially thrilling final twist pulls its punch in favor of a milquetoast metaphor, and Tegan concludes her story with a series of shallow truisms about embracing life.

Despite the title’s plea, there’s not much worth close examination here. (Magical realism. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6274-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS

Brie risks the deadly land of the Fae to save her sister.

Brie doesn’t trust many people other than Jas, her eternally hopeful sister, and Sebastian, mage apprentice and Brie’s secret love (as if she had time for romance). Brie struggles to meet the payments for the magical contracts binding their lives to Madame Vivias, supplementing her cleaning work by stealing from the rich. While the land of Faerie tempts other girls with word of a castle, a lavish ball, and a fae prince seeking a wife, Brie mistrusts the creatures who capitalize on humanity’s greed. When Jas’ contract is sold to the fae, Brie braves the golden Seelie queen’s court, meets the noble Prince Ronan, and travels on to the Unseelie king’s shadow court. In the process she discovers love, historical secrets, atrocities, and her own hidden strength. While many elements regarding the fae and a love triangle will feel familiar to fans of the genre, and the magic could have been more fleshed out, discussions of power, inequity, trust, and hope expand the worldbuilding in refreshing ways. Similarly, consideration of the balance between truth and secrets, lies and stories, is intriguing as it’s applied to characters, relationships, and historical lore. Despite certain predictable reveals, the plot itself, which starts off slowly, picks up and is pleasantly convoluted with multiple satisfying surprises. Major human characters read as White.

An entertaining fantasy set in a world that readers will want to revisit. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38657-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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