Thoughtful and well executed.

PERFECT ON PAPER

A teenage relationship expert deals with some tricky situations.

Every student at St. Deodetus’ school in California knows about locker 89: Slide $10 and a note confessing your relationship woes inside, and you’ll get an email with personally tailored advice. The anonymous proprietor, junior Darcy Phillips, enjoys crafting letters and has a high customer satisfaction rate. She’s always been careful to collect the letters after school, when no one’s around, and has managed to escape detection until Australian rich kid Alexander Brougham catches her in the act. Instead of spilling her secret, he hires her as a private coach to help him rekindle things with his ex-girlfriend. Darcy agrees—as a faculty kid on scholarship, the extra cash is welcome—but finds that dealing with a customer face to face has unique challenges, particularly given Brougham’s curt demeanor and reluctance to share basic information. Meanwhile, Darcy’s own love life (crushing on her best friend, Brooke Nguyen) continues to stump her expertise. This story is a classic teenage rom-com packed with misunderstandings and slow-burn attraction. The culmination of the main storylines is more than satisfying. In contrast to the unsuccessful parental relationships on display, Darcy gives well-researched advice that prioritizes communication, consent, and healthy realism. Gonzales similarly presents mature perspectives on recreational drug use and biphobia. There is strong representation of various queer identities, with some racial diversity implied through names; Darcy is bisexual and presumed White.

Thoughtful and well executed. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76978-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier.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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An appealing spin on traditional fantasy elements.

WE HUNT THE FLAME

From the Sands of Arawiya series , Vol. 1

Threatened by the encroaching darkness of the Arz, the kingdom of Arawiya and its five caliphates can only be saved by an artifact that will restore magic to the land.

The caliphate of Demenhur is covered in snow where there once was sand, its people on the brink of starvation but for the efforts of the Hunter. Few know that the Hunter, able to navigate the cursed forests of the Arz, is actually 17-year-old Zafira, disguised as a man since women are perceived as tainted in Demenhur. Nasir is both prince and assassin, his targets the perceived enemies of his father, the tyrannical, abusive sultan. When Zafira is summoned to embark on a quest for the lost jewel, Nasir is sent after her, to take it and kill her. They are soon thrown together, first as enemies and then reluctant allies, by the secrets and whispers of an enemy who poses an even greater threat. Debut author Faizal paints a vivid world, inspired by ancient Arabia and its mythology, that will appeal to fantasy and romance readers as well as fans of the Assassin’s Creed video games. The prose is at times beautiful, at times awkward. Themes of morality and understanding others beyond stereotypes are present throughout, though some characters are not well-fleshed-out. Characters embody different physical characteristics, with humans ranging from pale to dark-brown skinned and various fantastical creatures.

An appealing spin on traditional fantasy elements. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-31154-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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