Underwhelming bruja adventure is fine for fans of diverse or urban paranormal stories.

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LABYRINTH LOST

From the Brooklyn Brujas series , Vol. 1

A Brooklyn bruja who doesn't want her powers must journey to another dimension to save her family.

Alejandra Mortiz wishes she were a typical Brooklyn high schooler, but the Ecuadorian–Puerto Rican teen comes from a long line of Latina brujas (witches). Her mother and older sister, Lula, are healers, while her younger sister, Rose, is a dream-walking psychic. Alex, meanwhile, is revealed to be an encantrix—the most powerful kind of bruja, with the potential to master all forms of magic. Believing her magic to be a dangerous burden, she dreads her upcoming Deathday ceremony (a bruja or brujo's coming-of-age rite) until Nova, a mysterious (and gorgeous) brujo, informs her she could probably find the right enchantment to block her ceremonial blessing or even spell away her powers. When an evil supernatural force kidnaps her entire family during her Deathday, Alex must summon her powers—and Nova's knowledge of Los Lagos (the magical underworld)—to find her family and defeat her enemies. The author's blending of Latin American traditions, matriarchy, and religions makes the premise interesting, but the story is ultimately a predictable chosen-one quest. Props to Córdova for Alex's diverse family heritage, but readers will likely spend more time trying to keep track of the Los Lagos geography, various supernatural rules, living (and dead) characters, and off-putting animal sacrifices to feel invested in the multicultural bisexual love triangle.

Underwhelming bruja adventure is fine for fans of diverse or urban paranormal stories. (author's note, map) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-2094-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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