There’s little to keep readers turning the pages here.

JUST ANOTHER GIRL

Sixteen-year-old Hope has been nursing a crush on her best friend, Brady, for years, but with graduation rapidly approaching, the clock is ticking if she is going to do something.

Hope is convinced that if it were not for Parker, Brady’s girlfriend, she might have a chance. When Parker starts tutoring her, though, she becomes more than an obstacle to her happiness. But neither is willing to let her guard down. Hope risks losing all her friends if she cannot get her obsession under control. Unfortunately, while the story is ultimately one of hope and gratitude, the main characters are so unlikable that any good is lost. Hope’s single-minded obsession with Brady and her constant whining quickly wear thin, and while Brady’s heavy glasses and clumsy ways make him the epitome of geek chic, his insensitivity and manipulation disqualify him as crushworthy. Parker, with her devastating home life, is arguably the most sympathetic of the three, but her decision to put her head down and endure is frustrating. Other than that heartbreakingly real portrayal of a teen trying to survive against the odds, this story fails. Blonde, olive-skinned Hope (her mom is Mexican-American) aside, the cast seems to be a largely white one.

There’s little to keep readers turning the pages here. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-95628-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else.

ALL THIS TIME

A modern-day fairy tale about two teenagers suffering from loss who find healing in one another.

Despite the ups and downs in their relationship, Kyle and Kimberly have always made up, and Kyle looks forward to attending college together after graduation. But on the night they should be celebrating, Kimberly confesses that she has committed to a different college and breaks up with him. As they argue, their car crashes, and Kyle later wakes up in the hospital and learns that Kimberly is dead. In his grief, Kyle blames himself for her death. He struggles to leave his bed most days, ignores calls from his and Kimberly’s best friend, Sam, and has visions of Kimberly and life before the accident. One day, while visiting Kimberly’s grave, he meets Marley, a girl who likes telling stories and is mourning the death of her twin sister. Predictably, their natural affinity for one another evolves into romance. It is unfortunate that Kyle essentially moves from one romantic relationship to another on his journey to better understanding himself and his co-dependence on those closest to him, although his gradual development into a more considerate person redeems him. The pacing remains even until the critical plot disruption, resulting in the rest of the story feeling disjointed and rushed. All characters are White.

For readers in need of a happy ending but not much else. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6634-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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