Sweet, fun, Sapphic fluff.

THE GIRL FROM THE SEA

A new love with a mysterious girl upends a Canadian teen’s plans.

Morgan Kwon likes to keep her “life tucked neatly into boxes,” especially the one containing the secret that she is gay. She doesn’t believe she can be out until she’s away from her small island and in college. There’s enough drama in her life already with her recently divorced parents and angry younger brother. After Morgan is rescued from drowning by a selkie girl named Keltie who has big shiny eyes and a round face, she keeps their blossoming romance secret. Keltie has her own goals, though, and being quiet isn’t one of them. She needs Morgan’s help, but that will take Morgan’s willingness to open up about herself to others. Selkie lore is enchantingly interwoven in this light fantasy tale that also touches on environmentalism with a plotline regarding pollution of the seals’ habitat. The island setting enriches the story and comes alive through the art with many lovely water scenes. Panels are broken up with occasional text chats between friends, and the art makes use of varied perspectives and layouts to maintain visual interest. Story threads about conflicts with friends and family are believable but fairly surface level, and the romance is charming and tender. Morgan and Keltie’s mutual attraction is adorable, and their cute, happy kisses and cuddles are sure to elicit joy. Morgan’s name indicates Korean heritage; Keltie reads White.

Sweet, fun, Sapphic fluff. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-54058-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A successful romantic enterprise.

THE UPSIDE OF FALLING

High school seniors do the fake dating thing.

Brett Wells has always been focused on football. Brainy Becca Hart’s faith in love was destroyed by her parents’ divorce. The two have little in common other than being pestered by their friends and families about the lack of a special someone in their lives. They embark upon a “fake relationship,” but, predictably, it gives way to a real one. Debut author Light sprinkles in just enough charm and good-natured romance as the narrative bounces between Brett’s and Becca’s perspectives to keep readers engaged but not overwhelmed by twee sentiment. Becca is a much better developed character than Brett (handsome yet doofy, he has the complexity of a golden retriever), and her chapters are the novel’s highlights. Brett’s whole deal is a bigger pill to swallow, but readers who go with it will find a pleasant story. The novel is a syrupy ode to what it feels like to slowly fall for someone for the first time, and that mood is captured effectively. Becca and Brett have chemistry that feels completely natural, but sadly there are some late-in-the-game plot mechanics that feel forced. Fortunately, the author seems as uninterested in these disruptions as readers will be: Things are resolved quickly, and the novel ends on a high note. Whiteness is situated as the norm; main characters are white.

A successful romantic enterprise. (Romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291805-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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