A poignant, exhilarating tale of a love affair gone to the dogs.

WHY WE BROKE UP

A toy truck, bottle caps, rose petals, a cookbook and a box full of other seemingly unobtrusive mementos are dumped on the doorstep of Ed Slaterton by his ex-girlfriend, Min. Their unlikely romance lasted just over a month.

On the exterior he’s a gorgeous basketball-jock douchebag; she’s an outspoken, outsider, romantic-movie buff with frizzy hair. They’re opposites, and no one else in the novel sees why they’re together. But as objects from the box are revealed in Kalman’s vividly rendered paintings, readers are taken beneath the surface of what will no doubt be one of the most talked-about romances in teen literature. Handler frames their lives together with a sharp, cinematic virtuosity that leaps off the pages. Their relationship sparks and burns with so much passion, honesty, enlightenment and wonder that readers will feel relieved when they finish those chapters that don’t end with “…and that’s why we broke up.” The ordinary becomes extraordinary: A thrift-store cookbook explodes into a madcap dinner party for an aging imaginary film star. A rubber band causes readers to wince in pain when it’s ripped from Min’s hair. Torn condom wrappers induce smiles of knowing amusement as Min jokingly describes her first time. All is lovingly connected via a roster of fantastically drawn films and stars that readers will wish actually existed. The novel’s only fault lies in its inevitable conclusion, which can't help but be a letdown after 300+ pages of blazing romance.

A poignant, exhilarating tale of a love affair gone to the dogs. (Romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-12725-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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