A satisfying conclusion to a rich world of story.

THE STORY KING

From the Sunlit Lands series , Vol. 3

The Sunlit Lands are unraveling.

A year has passed since the events of The Heartwood Crown (2019), and readers find the surviving characters scattered and still looking for answers. Madeline’s sacrifice broke all magic and bonds, the aftereffects of which the Elenil, Scim, and humans work to reconcile. Some attempt to rebuild, some fight for a new way, while others look for scapegoats. Jason Wu, Darius Walker, Shula Bishara, and Gilenyia will uncover the mysteries behind the creation of the Sunlit Lands and the terrible secret of the Elenil in order to overcome the pain of their personal tragedies. The setting of the story is heavily influenced by recent events and social debates: It weaves in themes and discussion around false truths and those who believe them without seeking further, the systemic nature of White privilege, extremism (the Vain Boys are a group akin to the Proud Boys), and the dangers of being Black in contemporary America—and even touches upon the problem of Asian Americans being treated like a monolith. Christian references are similarly a part of the fabric of the story. Though at times heavy-handed in expressing political views, the novel highlights many important historical and current issues within a fantasy-world context. This trilogy closer will best be appreciated by readers familiar with the earlier volumes.

A satisfying conclusion to a rich world of story. (cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4964-4785-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Wander

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Queer, fluffy fun.

JAY'S GAY AGENDA

Senior year brings an entire list of changes to Jay’s life.

Jay, a gay 17-year-old, experiences a dramatic shift when his mother’s promotion to grocery store district manager transports their family from a small, not-very-diverse town in Eastern Washington to Seattle for his last year in high school. Jay will have to leave his best friend, Lu, but their friendship can survive the distance, right? It also means the chance to cross off items on Jay’s Gay Agenda, a list that ranges from finally meeting another gay boy (after being the only one who is out at his school) to, hopefully, going all the way. Things look up when Jay is taken under the wing of exuberant, genderqueer Max, a new Seattle classmate who helps him make moves toward sexy (and fun) Tony and sexy (and endearing) Albert. The story will amuse readers who are looking for a light read, although the characters at times read more like sitcom versions of teenagers than the real things. While the overall tone is more slapstick and humorous, a subplot concerning orphaned Lu’s financial problems is handled with sensitivity. The coronavirus is mentioned in a context indicating that the story is set in the near post-pandemic future, after quarantines have ended. Most main characters are implied White; Albert is Chinese American, and secondary characters in Seattle reflect the diversity of the city.

Queer, fluffy fun. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-301515-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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