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GIL MARSH

What’s ultimately lacking, though, is a compelling link between myth and contemporary tale.

Smart, handsome, athletic Gil Marsh, 17, hero of this contemporary take on the Gilgamesh epic (and first literary bromance) thinks he has no competition. Then hirsute Enko Labette shows up at Uruk High.

More than Gil’s equal, Enko’s popular, too. Infuriated, Gil provokes a physical confrontation that clears the air and, as the cliché provides, cements an intense, lasting bond between them. As in the epic, Bauer offers hints but ultimately punts on whether that bond is sexual. (Both date girls, but the boys’ passionate friendship is paramount.) After a few brief adventures, Enko succumbs to a sudden illness and dies. Grief-stricken, Gil flees high school in Connecticut for Canada, seeking Enko’s grave and the provenance of the garnet ring, a family heirloom, Enko gave him. Here the plot slows to a crawl. Though interspersed with evocative tidbits of Québécois history and culture, Gil’s quest, goals and expectations lack urgency and clarity. Does he really believe he can restore Enko to life? Enko himself fades into irrelevance as Gil’s focus turns to daily survival. Simple vocabulary, staccato style and straightforward syntax convey classic appeal and make this a good choice for reluctant readers. Genuine strengths include a likable hero and vivid sense of place.

What’s ultimately lacking, though, is a compelling link between myth and contemporary tale. (French glossary, author’s note) (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86933-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

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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