All the standard tropes and clichés, only ever-so-much more so.

REIGN OF SHADOWS

Star-crossed romance smolders in a sunless fairy-tale kingdom of ugliness, horror, and grisly violence.

Born on the eve of a now seemingly perpetual eclipse, Luna has spent her 17 years in darkness; alone with two loyal retainers in a remote tower, she hides from both the monstrous “dark dwellers” and the power-mad chancellor who murdered her royal parents. Everything changes after she rescues a few wanderers from Outside, including Fowler, a bitter youth particularly adept at survival. Once her sanctuary is discovered, Luna flees with Fowler, who longs to be rid of her while harboring sinister secrets of his own. Luna and Fowler alternate painfully florid narration of their journey through a far-fetched world where “everything is bleakness and death.” Fowler is an archetypical brooding hero; his cynical, callous exterior merely shields a heart bruised by his traumatic past. Luna, while laudably confident and competent (despite the disability she’s unaware of till he tells her about it), is also superspecial, flawlessly compassionate, and noble, with senses so implausibly acute that she almost totally compensates for it. Their inevitable romance is swoony, angst-y, and (discreetly) consummated, leading all too predictably to tedious misunderstandings, feckless self-sacrifices, and an abrupt, over-the-top cliffhanger that may inspire eye-rolls from even the most fervent devotees of the genre.

All the standard tropes and clichés, only ever-so-much more so. (Dystopian fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237764-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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