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A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic.

A brave young-adult novel about a devastating family secret.

Sixteen-year-old Tarah Carson’s high school life in small-town Bluford is going well: She’s dating a football star, she has close girlfriends, and one of her favorite teachers has suggested that her skills with children could point to an education career in her future. She also has a funny, smart gaggle of cousins keep her on her toes. But an impending family reunion in honor of a beloved aunt triggers Tarah’s deep-seated traumatic memories, because her Uncle Rudy, who sexually abused her as a child, will be there. Tarah’s afraid that Uncle Rudy might pose a threat to the youngest members of the family, and she weighs the consequences of telling her family and her boyfriend about his terrible past transgressions. As she does so, she finds herself facing, and questioning, her own coping mechanisms. Langan, in this installment of his ongoing series set in fictional Bluford, offers unflinchingly honest plot situations to engage and educate readers. It would be easy to fall into overdramatic or sentimental cliché with this novel’s subject matter, but Langan deftly avoids such traps, instead opting for natural dialogue and just enough specific detail to render his story universally relatable. The author’s portrayal of his teenage female protagonist’s internal struggles is admirable, although some readers may wish that the book elaborated more upon the emotional climax of the story, and its subsequent fallout. Some younger readers may find this book’s subject a bit too troubling, but older teens will likely be able to tolerate its frank discussion of familial taboos.

A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic. 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1591943044

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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