At its heart, this too-timely novel is purely honest.

SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL

An affecting look at the experience of one teen soldier’s experience on leave from Afghanistan.

Travis is trying hard to pretend everything is normal, but there's nothing normal about this little chunk of life at his former home in Florida. His girlfriend is now sleeping with his little brother, a smug, self-interested bastard. His friends don't understand why he can't just slide back into his stupid pre-Afghanistan life. His mother worries nonstop. The only thing that's normal is that his father, an ex–football player who bullied Travis mercilessly into playing the game, still seems to hate his guts. At least when he was with his unit, they all understood how their shared hellish experience has affected them. An unlikely encounter with Harper, a girl he humiliated in middle school, gives him a sense that, maybe, a normal life might be something he can shoot for. Travis' present-tense narration puts readers directly into his uneasy psyche; he only gradually reveals to himself as well as readers the extent of the damage he has taken in the desert. If the growing relationship between Travis and Harper seems too good to last and the sudden stiffening of his mother's spine unlikely, readers will be so invested in Travis' poor, shattered soul they will forgive narrative convenience.

At its heart, this too-timely novel is purely honest. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: June 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-844-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Will cast a spell on romance fans.

SERPENT & DOVE

From the Serpent & Dove series , Vol. 1

A stealth witch and a devout witch hunter are forced to marry.

In this French-flavored fantasy world, witches are hunted down by the Church’s Chasseurs and burned at the stake; they retaliate against this genocidal crusade through vicious terrorist attacks. Thief Louise le Blanc wants none of that—she’s left her witch life behind. But Lou ends up on Chasseur captain Reid Diggory’s radar when a heist goes bad; his attempt to catch her lands them in a situation so compromising that the archbishop suggests marriage to save face. Lou’s initial priority is self-protection—wanting to avoid both fallout from the heist and a dangerous figure from her past—and she’s fine with using Reid. The slow-burn, opposites-attract romance between crass, irreverent Lou and prim and proper Reid gets very hot and sexy once it ignites. Lou sees firsthand the damages some witches do to innocents, has her presumptions about individual Chasseurs challenged, and also sees up close the horrors Chasseurs perpetrate. Despite occasional pacing hiccups and an easily guessed twist, the secondary characters will charm readers, and the story picks up when Lou’s past dangerously catches up to her, revealing the true stakes. Though at heart a romance, rich second-tier characters round out the shades-of-gray, morality-and-empathy themes. Witches, Chasseurs, and some secondary characters come in all colors; the leads appear white. The ending screams sequel.

Will cast a spell on romance fans. (Fantasy. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287802-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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