Delivers a good cry but not much else.

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DIFFERENTLY NORMAL

You know the story: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Heartbreak ensues.

Nineteen-year-old Albert loves surfing, avoids his abusive father, and works with horses trained for therapy riding. That’s where he meets Maddy and her sister, Bee, who has autism, epilepsy, and other unspecified developmental disabilities requiring 24/7 care. Outside of work, Maddy has devoted her whole life to helping her single mother and sister and has no expectation or desire for change. But now, with Albert, she can’t help dreaming of something more…This weepy New Zealand romance is marketed to John Green fans but reads more like an old-school tear-jerker spiced up with tasteful sex. Albert is the ideal boyfriend—gorgeous, athletic, charming, infinitely supportive—even saddled with a cardboard bully parent. Maddy demonstrates more nuance, if inconsistently; a devastating revelation is never mentioned again, and her avowed passion for photography appears only when narratively useful. Bee’s many disabilities are described with realism and sympathy, but she is portrayed as a bundle of symptoms grafted onto a saccharine stereotype: “innocent, heartbreakingly so.” Maddy never expresses frustration or resentment since her sister functions only to teach patience, tolerance, and unconditional love. Except for half-Maori, half-white Bee, who has a different father than Maddy, all main characters present as white; one incidental Thai character speaks only in painfully fractured English.

Delivers a good cry but not much else. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-349-41904-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Piatkus Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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