A novel that could have hit the high notes but instead falls flat.

SHATTERED GLASS

From the Secrets series

The only memories 16-year-old Toni Royce has of her mother are the scars on her skin and lingering nightmares of a vicious and painful fire.

When the orphanage where she has spent most of her life is, ironically, lost in a fire, Toni finds herself Toronto-bound, with only three pieces of paper bearing clues to her former life. Along the way, she creates a hodgepodge family of her own while searching for the truth about a woman she’s hated for as long as she can remember. This entry in the Secrets series reads like a haphazardly sewn patchwork quilt: the individual squares have great potential, but when combined, the pieces don’t quite fit. The novel simply tries to do too much. In addition to Toni’s search for her mother, Toten attempts to weave in too many secondary plotlines, diluting the intensity of Toni’s search. Additionally, Toni’s “aw shucks” naiveté  is overplayed and off-putting. However, perhaps the greatest disappointment is that while the story promises to be steeped in Toronto’s 1960s music scene, the music gets lost in the muddle and all but disappears midway through. In the end, it’s a motley crew of endearing and rich secondary characters who bear the burden of readers’ engagement.

A novel that could have hit the high notes but instead falls flat. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0671-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An emotionally engaging and draining debut.

OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS

Two teenagers suffer through their first heartbreak.

Henry Page has spent his high school years with his nose to the grindstone, avoiding romantic relationships and focusing on becoming the editor of the school paper. At the start of his senior year Henry is offered the job, but there’s a catch: transfer student Grace Town is offered the gig as well, making the two white teens co-editors. Sparks fly as Henry works with the aloof, unkempt new girl, who walks with a cane. As Henry and Grace grow closer, Henry falls deeper for her even as he learns just how broken she is. In her debut, Sutherland mixes her love story with equal parts hope and ominous dread. There is never any doubt that this couple is marching toward romantic oblivion, but it’s an effectively drawn journey. The characters speak with a John Green–esque voice, but they are never overbearingly precocious. Narrator Henry’s a smartly rendered character, a decent kid who has goals and works hard to achieve them. His new goal is Grace’s affection, and the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object that is Grace’s emotional unavailability provides the novel some of its sharpest moments. When the walls tumble down, the connection between the two is clearly an unhealthy one, and the author pulls no punches, devastating Henry, Grace, and readers in equal measure.

An emotionally engaging and draining debut. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54656-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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