Pleasantly indulgent, with a dash of realism.


When they were 10, Elena Soo and Robbie Choi promised to go to prom together; seven years later, Robbie, now a member of world-famous K-pop group WDB, shows up on Elena’s doorstep.

Korean American Elena wants to set herself apart from her four siblings, but at school and at home, the attention-shy high school junior is always overshadowed by her older sisters and twin brother. It doesn’t help that her efforts to fundraise for the local community center through an “alterna-prom” initiative has put her at odds with her classmates. When Robbie, whose family left Chicago for Seoul, suddenly reappears in the States, first at her house and then at school with a public, extravagant promposal, Elena is bewildered by the polished heartthrob who is so different from her goofy childhood friend. She rejects him. This stuns Robbie, who genuinely wants to reconnect with her and fulfill their old promise, but despite his polished idol persona and ease with adoring fans, he doesn’t know how to talk to his first crush. The story unfolds in alternating perspectives with an even mix of flirty and serious tones balancing a frothy premise with sympathetic lead characters who are each struggling in their own ways to define themselves. No prior K-pop knowledge is needed to enjoy the slow-burn, will-they, won’t-they storyline, though fans of the genre will appreciate a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them allusions to real K-pop idols.

Pleasantly indulgent, with a dash of realism. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-06464-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.


Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • Stonewall Book Awards Winner

  • National Book Award Winner


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

Did you like this book?