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DOUBLE NEGATIVE

An often humorous and insightful story of teens becoming self-aware young adults.

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A talented student athlete learns that there’s more to life than the swim team when an injury sidelines her in Marshall’s YA novel.

Reece Denning counted on getting an athletic scholarship to an Ivy League college (“There was no Plan B”), but a shoulder injury forces her to leave her elite sports academy and attend a new school while she recovers. There, her goofball (“Spontaneity, it’s the way to go”) but determined older brother, Jamie, runs for student council president and provides comic relief. After his VP selection is disqualified, Reece becomes his reluctant running mate. Due to a preposterous campaign promise of free ice cream, Jamie and Reece are victorious. However, to keep her brother’s college plans moving forward, Reece must play ant to his grasshopper and keep him on task. The counterpoint to Jamie’s fecklessness and Reece’s singled-minded focus is Zain, a student council member who coerces Jamie into writing a student-council constitution, and Reece ends up helping. She meets Zain, and they began a touch-and-go relationship that’s deeper than puppy love but complicated by the fact that an accident required the amputation of one of Zain’s legs, for which he wears a prosthetic; although he’s captain of the basketball team, he knows that he’ll never get an athletic scholarship, but he plans on pursuing a law career. He’s aware of the law’s limitations, however, noting the “crappy settlement” he received for his accident, which, for Reece, strikes close to home. Reece narrates Marshall’s energetic novel with none of the breathlessness and chattiness that one often finds in books for and about teens, and the strong characterizations make the main players’ behavior realistic; for instance, Reece, despite her staunch athleticism, attends a few alcohol-fueled parties as she gets acclimated to her new surroundings, as many teens would. The action and exposition come at a fast clip, but not so quickly as to overwhelm and confuse readers, and although the constitution subplot feels like a bit of a run-around, the author does smoothly integrate it into the plot. In the end, the protagonist comes to an important realization—that, in life, “Perfection was overrated.”

An often humorous and insightful story of teens becoming self-aware young adults.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-369-50457-9

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Evernight Teen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

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BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN

A high-concept premise that falls short in its execution.

A teenage girl finds herself alone after everyone else in her town mysteriously disappears, leaving her scrambling to figure out how to find them all.

One late summer day, everybody in July Fielding’s town disappears. She is left to piece together what happened, following a series of cryptic signs she finds around town urging her to “GET THEM BACK.” The narrative moves back and forth between July’s present and the events of the summer before, when her relationship with her best friend, cross-country team co-captain Sydney, starts to fracture due to a combination of jealousy over July’s new relationship with a cute boy called Sam and sweet up-and-coming freshman Ella’s threatening to overtake Syd’s status as star of the track team. The team members participate in a ritual in which they jump off a cliff into the rocky waters below at the end of their Friday practice runs. Though Ella is reluctant, Syd pressures her to jump. Short, frenetically paced sections move the story along quickly, and there is much foreshadowing pointing to something terrible that occurred at the end of that summer, which may be the key to July’s current predicament, but there is much misdirection too. Ultimately this is a story without enough setup to make the turn the book takes in the end feel fully developed or earned. All characters read white.

A high-concept premise that falls short in its execution. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780593327173

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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