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Five years after Maddie, then a blossoming 13-year-old, left, she’s back for the summer in small-town Conway, S.C., all grown up with low-cut dresses to prove it, serving “penance” for the reputation she’s acquired. Fellow preacher’s kid Joshua, good because he’s always been that way (“Being the only son of the Reverend Isaiah P. Wynn, I was expected to never break the rules. Ever”), still sees his best friend underneath the lipstick and tight clothes. He realizes that saving her might be harder than he thinks, though, when he’s forced to disobey his worried, meddling parents, confront his saintly image and finally form his own opinions about premarital sex and sin. And when saving Maddie means saving himself in the process. Johnson avoids heavy-handed messages with nuanced characters and a realistic treatment of Joshua and Maddie’s complex relationship. Despite—or because of—his changes, Joshua remains a nice guy and proves that they can finish last, first or whenever or however they want. Unfortunately, the cover condemns this book to Girls Only. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-73804-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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A coming-out story featuring diverse characters and a richly rendered international setting.

Bangladeshi-American Rukhsana Ali must choose between her family’s wishes and following her heart.

Although her Muslim immigrant parents approve of her professional dreams of becoming a physicist at NASA, Rukhsana is sure that they won’t be as enthusiastic about her personal dream of spending her life with her secret girlfriend, Ariana, who is white. After winning a prestigious scholarship to Caltech, her professional ambitions seem within reach—until her mother catches her kissing Ariana and she is whisked away to Bangladesh with plans to arrange her marriage. As she battles her parents’ homophobia, Rukhsana simultaneously struggles to help Ariana and her friends back home in Seattle understand the weight of the cultural and social stigmas that she has to fight. Along the way, Rukhsana finds unexpected allies, including her grandmother, who encourages her to fight for what she wants. This witty coming-out story is populated by colorful, nuanced personalities who never lapse into stereotypes. Unfortunately, the fast pace leaves readers little time to digest the most intense moments, including some physical and sexual violence. Likewise, the sheer amount of action leaves certain characters, like Rukhsana’s spoiled but loving brother, insufficient time to fully develop. However, the story is told tenderly and unflinchingly, balancing the horrors of homophobia against the South Asian men and women who risk their lives to fight it each and every day.

A coming-out story featuring diverse characters and a richly rendered international setting. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-22701-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2019

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An elaborate yet convoluted high fantasy that references Jewish folklore.

In the complicated political fantasy landscape of Enderlain, Mikira Rusel and Arielle Kadar are strong young women forced into dire circumstances.

Ari uses banned Kinnish magic, based on the Jewish myth of the golem, to feed herself. Mikira is from a family who breeds magical horses. Early in the story, Ari is assaulted and robbed, while Mikira’s father, who is deeply in debt and using illegal enchantment to enhance his horses, is arrested. Using the girls’ desperation to their own advantage, Damien Adair and Rezek Kelbra, the sons of two warring noble houses, each devise plots to gain power to control the city. Damien enlists Ari and Mikira in a devious plan to win the Illinir, a series of dangerous horse races held once every decade: Mikira will be the jockey, and Ari will create a golem disguised as a horse. While this dual narrative told in the girls’ alternating points of view is original and engaging, the multiple storylines and numerous characters lead to plot holes that may confuse readers. The languid pace of most of the story leads up to an ending that comes too quickly and leaves many open storylines and unanswered questions. While it’s obvious that a sequel is in the works, the perplexing nature of this book might leave some readers feeling unfulfilled. The main characters have olive or light skin.

An elaborate yet convoluted high fantasy that references Jewish folklore. (map, family trees) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781250812360

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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