A fun, fluffy romp that tackles with fervor teens’ obsession with love.

KISSING GAMES

From the Aurora Skye series , Vol. 2

Aurora debuts her matchmaking program and frets over the seriousness of her own Prince Charming.

After locking lips in the school play in How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You (2016), Aurora Skye and Hayden Paris are dating. But their second kiss is a disaster: Her hair catches on fire, and she bites his lip so hard he needs stitches. She’s dubbed “Lethal Lips,” and the two can’t kiss again until Hayden heals. So begins Aurora’s worry spiral as Hayden’s mixed signals flare her insecurities. But love remains at center stage—her friend Jelena Cantrill announces that she’s running for student body president and she’s using Aurora’s “Find a Prince/Princess” matchmaking program to promote her campaign. Soon Aurora and her friends are busy meeting all of Jelena’s demands, working to ensure that three perfect couples emerge from the program, no matter what. Comedic antics abound, but serious topics like harassment and difficult parental relationships are touched on, too. Aurora must plumb new depths in terms of what it means to love as a daughter, girlfriend, and friend. Complex, Gilmore Girls–inspired dialogue fuels Aurora’s quirky misadventures, almost making up for the array of one-dimensional characters. Everyone’s a little too perfect, bossy, or cruel to feel real, but it’s an enjoyable ride all the same. The book follows a white default.

A fun, fluffy romp that tackles with fervor teens’ obsession with love. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-07526-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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