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

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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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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A purple page turner.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 2

This sequel to Clockwork Angel (2010) pits gorgeous, attractively broken teens against a menacing evil.

There's betrayal, mayhem and clockwork monstrosities, and the Shadowhunters have only two weeks to discover—oh, who are we kidding? The plot is only surprisingly tasty icing on this cupcake of a melodramatic love triangle. Our heroes are Tessa, who may or may not be a warlock, and the beautiful Shadowhunter warrior boys who are moths to her forbidden flame. It's not always clear why Tessa prefers Will to his beloved (and only) friend Jem, the dying, silver-eyed, biracial sweetheart with the face of an angel. Jem, after all, is gentle and kind, her dearest confidante; Will is unpleasant to everyone around him. But poor, wretched Will—who "would have been pretty if he had not been so tall and so muscular"—has a deep, dark, thoroughly emo secret. His trauma puts all previous romantic difficulties to shame, from the Capulet/Montague feud all the way to Edward Cullen's desire to chomp on Bella Swan. Somehow there's room for an interesting steampunk mystery amid all this angst. The supporting characters (unusually well-developed for a love-triangle romance) include multiple compelling young women who show strength in myriad ways. So what if there are anachronisms, character inconsistencies and weird tonal slips? There's too much overwrought fun to care.

A purple page turner. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7588-5

Page Count: 528

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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