Simmering with internal conflict and well-devised courtly scheming—but readers new to the series had best start with Book 1.

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KING'S CAGE

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 3

The “lightning girl” who once led a revolution now toils, powerless and imprisoned, in this continuation of the Red Queen series.

After turning herself over in exchange for the lives of her friends, Mare Barrow becomes King Maven’s puppet. She waits, locked in a room, her lightning drained by Arvens—Silvers who leach power. But Maven has grander plans for her. And if she wants to keep the newbloods safe, she must comply. Mare broadcasts a lie that she willingly surrendered herself to the king after the Scarlet Guard forced her into servitude. She paints the Scarlet Guard as murderers, paving the way for Maven to offer refuge to newbloods in hopes of amassing an army. Otherwise, he’ll just keep hunting them. Political machinations rumble while both the king and the Scarlet Guard form new alliances. As Mare bides her time, she confronts uncomfortable feelings for Maven—she’s his greatest weakness, but can she kill him? Complementing Mare’s narration, Cameron, a newblood, relates the movements of the Scarlet Guard, and Evangeline, Maven’s betrothed, offers insight into the deadly House Samos. Few bursts of action stir up this slow-burning installment, allowing the dizzyingly large fleet of characters room to gain new depth. Mare’s romantic entanglements shift and sizzle, but the true intrigue lies in the ever expanding war for the crown as the players grow and change games. Aside from dark-skinned Cameron, the principal cast appears to be white, although the caste system based on the distinctions between Red and Silver blood holds more sway in this fantasy world than race.

Simmering with internal conflict and well-devised courtly scheming—but readers new to the series had best start with Book 1. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-231069-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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