A witty, honest debut that shines a light on some very real issues.

THE NIGHT WHEN NO ONE HAD SEX

A group of friends in Eugene, Oregon, make a pact to have sex with their respective partners after prom in this comedic novel.

Featuring revolving first-person narration shared by four of the characters and interspersed with a group chat that includes the whole group, this engaging, madcap comedy is refreshingly frank in its discussion of sex and the problems that can arise as couples prepare to make good on their plans at the fancy vacation house they’ve borrowed from Zoe’s uncle for the occasion. Only Alex, who rushes to be with his grandmother when she is taken to the hospital, and Leah, the prom date he met only hours earlier after they were set up by a mutual friend, are not part of the pact. Zoe and her girlfriend, Morgan, who’ve had sex before, struggle with discussing changes in their college plans. Morgan’s twin sister, Madison, and her boyfriend, Jake, arrive with condoms in hand but find that a flare of her autoimmune disorder, lupus, and his good-natured but clueless response to it complicate their plans. Finally, Julia’s disappointment that she experiences extreme pain when she and her boyfriend, Kevin, attempt to have intercourse leads them to try out a role-play scenario that ends in situational hilarity. Alex is Korean American; Kevin is Chinese American; and the rest of the characters are White.

A witty, honest debut that shines a light on some very real issues. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5627-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: AW Teen

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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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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