Beautifully, achingly cathartic.

WHEN WE WERE INFINITE

High school senior Beth Claire knows what it’s like to lose someone you love.

Ever since her White father left, after her parents’ divorce, Beth has blamed her Chinese American mother for the end of their marriage. Striving not to repeat her mother’s mistakes, Beth does her best to be someone who is wanted and needed by those around her, especially her four closest friends, Brandon, Grace, Jason, and Sunny. She cherishes the closeness of their group and wants nothing more than for them all to stay tightly bonded through the year and even beyond graduation. Then Beth and Brandon accidentally witness Jason’s father assaulting him. Jason brushes off the violence, but Beth is devastated by the realization that she was unaware of her friend’s family situation. She becomes anxious when she and her friends are unable to devise a way to help Jason. The story is told retrospectively by an older Beth, whose tenderness toward her younger self contrasts with high school Beth’s critical and self-effacing demeanor. Her desire to be enough—competent enough, Chinese enough, accommodating enough—is described with the clarity of hindsight and vivid emotion, particularly when it comes to Jason, who was able to see past Beth’s carefully cultivated mildness to understand her in a way that the others do not. Brandon, Grace, Jason, and Sunny are all Asian American; Sunny is pansexual.

Beautifully, achingly cathartic. (resources) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6821-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends.

RED QUEEN

From the Red Queen series , Vol. 1

Amid a war and rising civil unrest, a young thief discovers the shocking power within her that sparks a revolution.

At 17, Mare knows that without an apprenticeship or job, her next birthday will bring a conscription to join the war. She contributes to her poor family’s income the only way she can, stealing from the Silvers, who possess myriad powers and force her and her fellow Reds into servitude. The Silvers literally bleed silver, and they can manipulate metal, plants and animals, among many other talents. When Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, loses his job and is doomed to conscription, she is determined to change his fate. She stumbles into a mysterious stranger after her plan goes awry and is pulled out of her village and into the world of Silver royalty. Once inside the palace walls, it isn’t long before Mare learns that powers unknown to red-blooded humans lie within her, powers that could lead a revolution. Familiar tropes abound. Mare is revealed as a great catalyst for change among classes and is groomed from rags to riches, and of course, seemingly kind characters turn out to be foes. However, Aveyard weaves a compelling new world, and Mare and the two men in her life evolve intriguingly as class tension rises. Revolution supersedes romance, setting the stage for action-packed surprises.

An inventive, character-driven twist breathes new life into tired fantasy trends. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231063-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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