K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics.

XOXO

A driven young woman learns to balance expectations and priorities with heart and passion.

A vivid, comical scene of everyday life in Koreatown introduces narrator Jenny Jooyoung Go, a high school junior and classical cellist aiming for a top conservatory. While her single-minded focus yields technical perfection, competition judges deem Jenny lacking in soulful spark. Her Uncle Jay advises her to experience more of life and broaden her horizons. An opportunity soon beckons, and the plot unfolds like a minidrama amid the Los Angeles Korean Festival, launching Jenny and her new acquaintance, Jaewoo, on an accidental adventure that foreshadows romance. When her mom, a widowed immigration lawyer, needs to return to Seoul to care for her dying mother, Jenny negotiates to go along for her first visit to Korea. Attending Seoul Arts Academy, Jenny witnesses the institutional grooming of K-pop idols—including (surprise!) classmate Jaewoo, who, as it turns out, is popular band XOXO’s lead singer. She also shares in the student performers’ duty-bound lives: Behind the glamour, they are burdened with obligations to their communities that can require sacrifice of their personal happiness. Themes of responsibility, regret, and reconciliation weave through the intergenerational dynamics in Jenny’s family, adding dimension and depth. The author incorporates Korean honorifics to convey a conversational tone and signal dialogue occurring in both languages.

K-pop helps a cellist develop musically and emotionally in this novel filled with humor and theatrics. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302499-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Bloody? Yes. Scary? No.

THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE

Someone is murdering high school students. Most freeze in fear, but a brave few try to stop the killings.

Senior Makani Young has been living in corn-obsessed Nebraska for just a little over a year. She has developed a crush and made some friends, but a dark secret keeps her from truly opening up to those around her. As the only half–African-American and half–Native Hawaiian student in her school, she already stands out, but as the killing spree continues, the press descends, and rumors fly, Makani is increasingly nervous that her past will be exposed. However, the charming and incredibly shy Ollie, a white boy with hot-pink hair, a lip ring, and wanderlust, provides an excellent distraction from the horror and fear. Graphic violence and bloody mayhem saturate this high-speed slasher story. And while Makani’s secret and the killer’s hidden identity might keep the pages turning, this is less a psychological thriller and more a study in gore. The intimacy and precision of the killer’s machinations hint at some grand psychological reveal, but lacking even basic jump-scares, this tale is high in yuck and low in fright. The tendency of the characters toward preachy inner monologues feels false.

Bloody? Yes. Scary? No. (Horror. 14-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42601-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 2

Lara Jean's romantic entanglements complicate themselves further.

In the wake of the events detailed in To All the Boys I Loved Before (2014), Lara Jean confesses her love for handsome golden boy Peter. This frees the pair to start a romantic relationship with a clean slate, but over the course of the novel it becomes clear that embarking on a relationship that turns an aggressive blind eye to baggage is never a good idea. When a viral video of a steamy love session between Peter and Lara Jean rears its ugly head and a boy from the past enters Lara Jean's life once more, Lara Jean's life gets complicated. Every character from Han’s adored previous novel is back, with new dimensions given to nearly every one of them. Subplots abound, among them two involving Lara Jean's father and Peter's ex-gal Genevieve, but benefitting most from this second look is John Ambrose McClaren, a boy briefly referenced in the former book who is thrust into the spotlight here as Peter's rival for Lara Jean's heart. With all these characters bouncing around, Han occasionally struggles to keep a steady hand on the novel's primary thrust: Lara Jean’s emotional development. Han gets the job done in the end, but this overeventful sequel pales to the original where structure is concerned. The author's greatest success remains her character work, and the book does indeed give everyone a solid arc, narrative be damned.

A satisfying if slightly lesser sequel. (Romance. 13-17)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2673-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2015

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