An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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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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The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one.

THE FINAL SIX

From the Final Six series , Vol. 1

Teens become astronauts in record time for an inaugural space mission.

After losing his family to “the greatest flood Rome has ever known,” skilled white Italian swimmer Leo Danieli would never have expected that in his darkest moment he would be drafted by the European Space Agency to attend the International Space Training Camp, where teens will train to terraform and colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa for human settlement. California native Naomi Ardalan, a second-generation Iranian-American, has also been chosen for her expertise in science and technology. During a period of violent climate change worldwide, Earth’s governments are desperate to draft teens for a space mission for which they have only a few weeks in which to prepare. Twenty-four teen finalists, many orphaned by cataclysmic natural disasters, have been chosen from all over the world to compete for this space colonization mission. Warnings come to Leo and Naomi that there is a more sinister aspect to this mission, especially after things go tragically awry with other candidates during the training. The relationship that develops between Naomi and Leo feels forced, as if their meeting necessitates speedy deployment of a romantic cliché. The use of predictable plot devices, along with the fundamentally ludicrous premise, undermines any believability that would make a reader invest in such an elaborate space journey.

The shelves are already crowded with teens-training-for-space stories; there’s no need to make room for this one. (Science fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265894-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun.

THE LIFE BELOW

From the Final Six series , Vol. 2

This sequel to The Final Six (2018) raises the stakes for its spacefaring teen astronauts.

Naomi Ardalan and the other Final Six are on their journey to colonize Jupiter’s moon Europa, leading the way for humans to eventually leave a dying Earth. Naomi is the only one in the group who knows that the leaders of the International Space Training Camp are keeping the truth from them, and it is down to her to discover whether there is alien life on Europa before they land. Back on Earth, and unbeknownst to the crew, left-behind recruit Leo Danieli works with genius doctor Greta Wagner to launch a solo mission to intercept and join Naomi’s ship in order to bring them news that not only is there definitely life on Europa, but they are set to land in its most dangerous zone. As the two missions and alternating narratives converge, the unthinkable happens—and everything changes. Fast-paced and plot-driven, the novel decidedly veers into science fiction horror territory with plenty of scares that readers willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the teenagers-in-space setup are likely to enjoy. The syrupy romance between Leo and Naomi continues, and a new layer is added to the story with a frustratingly too-brief examination of colonization and first contact. Naomi is Iranian American, Leo is Italian, and the human cast is international.

Breezy, silly, unremarkable fun. (Science fiction horror. 14-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265897-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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