Fascinating female characters in a richly built fantasy world that delivers slowly on adventure.

THE AFTERWARD

Lady knights return to town as heroes—and struggle with life after fame.

Sir Erris Quicksword returns victorious to the city of Cadria with her six faithful companions, having managed to find the magical godsgem and destroy the evil Old God. Welcomed home with great rewards and acclaim, Sir Erris marries the king, and peace returns to the kingdom. Bisexual Olsa Rhetsdaughter, the one lowborn member, feels utterly abandoned and falls back into a life of struggle and thievery. Meanwhile, apprentice knight Kalanthe Ironheart, who is lesbian, returns from her first mission only to prepare apprehensively for marriage—likely to a wealthy man hoping for heirs and willing to pay off her family’s debt. Johnston (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, 2017, etc.) weaves a compelling fantasy world in which meticulously crafted female characters slip easily between chain mail and dresses, enjoying many freedoms and yet facing economic and biological pressures to marry men. The narrative flits between the great quest and “the afterward,” revealing the romantic love between dutiful Kalanthe and defiant Olsa. The characters are diverse—including trans and asexual representation—and many are portrayed as beautifully dark-skinned with natural hair. Impatient readers will note that there’s an awful lot of armor and weaponry with very little questing. It’s with some relief that there’s trouble in the realm once again.

Fascinating female characters in a richly built fantasy world that delivers slowly on adventure. (Fantasy. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3189-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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