Fans will likely give weaknesses the benefit of the doubt and look forward to the third volume; here’s hoping it repays...

A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY

Still reeling from the zombie cataclysm that took her hand and left her necromancer brother dead and his body possessed (Something Strange and Deadly, 2012), Eleanor Fitt sets her sights on Paris, where the Spirit-Hunters who had helped her are now battling its Dead.

Strange occurrences—the sound of howling dogs, yellow eyes glittering in the darkness and, most disturbingly, the on-again, off-again reappearance of her hand—and the knowledge that the evil spirit who took over Elijah’s body is after the letters he sent to her hasten her departure from Philadelphia. On the boat, she meets Elijah’s demon, Oliver, a charismatic, haunted young man who begins to teach her necromancy, which she finds intensely pleasurable—almost addictive. Unsurprisingly, her reunion with the necromancy-hating Spirit-Hunters is fraught, and it is further complicated by her ambivalent feelings toward Daniel, whom she fell hard for in Philadelphia. This outing lacks its predecessor’s focus, sending Eleanor hither and thither across Paris after the Dead and clues to Elijah’s necromantic research. A rotating cast of characters—Oliver, the various Spirit-Hunters, new French friends and acquaintances—keeps both Eleanor and readers busy, and plot transitions come thick, fast and often clunky. But pastry-loving Eleanor remains an appealing character, and Oliver is an intriguing new addition.

Fans will likely give weaknesses the benefit of the doubt and look forward to the third volume; here’s hoping it repays their faith. (Paranormal historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-208329-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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