A curious premise dashed by thin characters and a one-note tone.



Three Australian teens deal with the fallout of their friend’s death.

Ryan, Harley, and Miles don’t have much in common. Ryan is the golden-boy jock, Harley is the school rebel, and Miles is the class nerd. The only common ground these three teens have is their mutual best friend, Isaac. After Isaac dies in a freak accident the trio separately come to terms with what Isaac meant to them and come together to honor his memory. The novel is broken into three sections, each narrated by a different grieving friend. A common thread unites their perspectives: repressed sorrow. After a while this oppressive sadness threatens to sink the book. There are few laughs here but heaps of ennui. The characters are understandably distraught, but the one-note emotional tone gets tiresome. The character arcs are well-structured, and the interconnective tissue is smartly conceived, but it all comes back to these three dull protagonists. Ryan is the most compelling of the three; Miles is a typical nerd and Harley the usual ne’er-do-well. Ryan’s living a double life that crackles with a little conflict to pair with his angst, but his section is up first, leaving readers to slog through Harley’s and Miles’ portions before reaching the novel’s perfunctory end. Aside from the toss-off bit of Inuit heritage in Harley’s background, the cast is a largely white one.

A curious premise dashed by thin characters and a one-note tone. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-373-21262-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.


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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Best leave it at maybe so.


Two 17-year-olds from the northern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, work together on a campaign for a progressive state senate candidate in an unlikely love story.

Co-authors Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat, 2018, etc.) and Saeed (Bilal Cooks Daal, 2019, etc.) present Jamie Goldberg, a white Ashkenazi Jewish boy who suffers from being “painfully bad at anything girl-related,” and Maya Rehman, a Pakistani American Muslim girl struggling with her parents’ sudden separation. Former childhood best friends, they find themselves volunteered as a team by their mothers during a Ramadan “campaign iftar.” One canvassing adventure at a time, they grow closer despite Maya’s no-dating policy. Chapters alternate between Maya’s and Jamie’s first-person voices. The endearing, if somewhat clichéd, teens sweetly connect over similarities like divorced parents, and their activism will resonate with many. Jamie is sensitive, clumsy, and insecure; Maya is determined, sassy, a dash spoiled, and she swears freely. The novel covers timeless themes of teen activism and love-conquers-all along with election highs and lows, messy divorces, teen angst, bat mitzvah stress, social media gaffes, right-wing haters, friendship drama, and cultural misunderstandings, but the explicit advocacy at times interferes with an immersive reading experience and the text often feels repetitious. Maya’s mother is hijabi, and while Maya advocates against a hijab ban, she chooses not to wear hijab and actively wrestles with what it means to be an observant Muslim.

Best leave it at maybe so. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293704-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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