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First impressions can be deceiving, as Barnes (Olivia Twisted, 2013, etc.) reveals in her new YA novel.

Sixteen-year-old Alexis Dubois is serving a two-month sentence…at SmartMart. She’s pretty, athletic and part of the popular crowd at high school. Her summer plans consist of volunteering at a kids’ baseball camp and spending time with her friends. She never imagined putting in long hours at SmartMart, the local big-box store (which bears a close resemblance in name and reputation to Walmart). Unfortunately for Lex, she’s caught stealing from the store, and working there is the only way to avoid charges. Lex is mortified by her co-workers, the same people she once mocked on YouTube. But it doesn’t take long for her to realize that there’s more to these people of SmartMart than she first thought. Sure, the shoppers are still weird and creepy. But Lex befriends her co-workers and learns they all have stories buried not far underneath the surface, including the oh-so-handsome manager, Noah. Things are looking up for Lex until she discovers Noah is a pariah at her high school and the archnemesis of her best friend’s boyfriend. She can’t possibly hang out with them both, but she can’t fight her attraction for Noah. Barnes introduces a likable cast of characters in a light and frothy addition to the YA genre. The formula is relatively predictable: girl meets boy and must overcome disapproval and life challenges to make the romance succeed. Yet Barnes’ tongue-in-cheek observations on the wacky world of child beauty pageants and the bizarre customer base at SmartMart are particularly amusing in a modern society that has spawned Honey Boo Boo and Walmart Supercenters. Other portions of the book, such as Lex dealing with her grandmother’s gradual and painful slide into Alzheimer’s disease, contain poignant moments that offset the lightness. Teen readers in particular should be able to relate to Lex and her star-crossed romance, family conflict and struggles with the future.

An enjoyable read with enough emotional turmoil and sweet romantic moments to satisfy the YA crowd.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1622665211
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Program: Kirkus Indie
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ChildrenTHE QUEEN OF KENTUCKY by Alecia Whitaker
by Alecia Whitaker