Taut, compact, and suspenseful, the novel raises important questions about war but disappointingly punts on the bigger...

PRICE OF DUTY

Wounded in combat, Pfc. Jake Liddell returns home a hero; he has one week to decide what to do next.

Jake’s grandfather’s a general and Vietnam War hero, his father a lieutenant colonel; Jake enlisted out of high school. After rehab, he’s expected to return to war (set in an unnamed, generic Middle Eastern setting). Jake’s family couldn’t be prouder of him, but he’s haunted by memories of taking lives and watching lives being taken by an enemy that includes malnourished children and the desperately poor, their country wasted by decades of war. An attractive female school newspaper reporter wants him to publicly decry how recruiters manipulate teens—especially minorities and the poor—into enlisting, portraying war as a glamorous video game, but he’d be invalidating his family and their choices. In terms of gender, the novel feels as if it’s set during World War II: Thousands of American women serve overseas in combat and support roles, yet the novel’s soldiers are exclusively male. Under fire, the soldiers wonder if their girls, safe back home and seemingly not pursuing careers or independent modern lives, are faithful to them. They regret killing armed children and civilians but never the need to wage this war at this time.

Taut, compact, and suspenseful, the novel raises important questions about war but disappointingly punts on the bigger issues. (Fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9709-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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