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The bleak scenery of winter forms the backdrop to this tale of three runaways, bonded together to grasp feebly for emotional warmth. The reader meets Custis, Curl, and Boobie as they speed down the back roads of Illinois in a stolen car, with a stolen baby. Alternating narratives move back and forth through time, obliquely telling the characters’ individual stories even as their current drama unfolds. Custis is homeless, a fugitive from a child-porn producer; Curl is a drug-addicted prostitute; Boobie is a virtual cipher—his contributions to the narrative consist of increasingly violent and nihilistic sketches—who, the reader learns, has just killed his well-to-do parents and made off with his baby brother. They have no destination other than to get away from where they’ve been; they have a vague plan of selling the baby and using the money to set themselves up comfortably. Their “plan” is doomed from the start: the three, plus the baby, end up in an abandoned van in the middle of the woods, where first Curl dies and then Boobie vanishes into the snow. It is at this moment that Custis and the baby are taken in by Seldom, an ancient and eccentric black man who lives in a cabin and who begins to show Custis that maybe there is another way to live. With his customary ear for the language of the marginalized teen, Rapp (Little Chicago, 2002, etc.) allows his characters to present themselves with total un-self-consciousness, frankly and powerfully laying out the squalor of their existence without any seeming sense that life can be anything else but squalid. Seldom may himself seem rather like deus ex machina from a plotting perspective, but he serves to save both Custis and the narrative from utter annihilation. The snug warmth of Seldom’s home and the little family he and Custis and the baby have formed contrasts powerfully with the frigid internal winter that Custis has survived, allowing both Custis and the reader to hope for redemption. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7636-1874-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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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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