An intelligent, insightful, and utterly swoon-y coming-of-age story.

Pretending to like one another turns into something more in this charming take on love, family, and personal integrity set in Dublin.

The only two brown girls in their year, Hani and Ishu, while both Bengali, are hardly friendly—and worlds apart. Hani is Bangladeshi Irish and in with the popular crowd, her Muslim faith brings comfort, and she is out to her family as bisexual. Ishu is Indian Irish and a studious, prickly misanthrope; an atheist from a Hindu family, she’s queer and closeted. Being friendless and living in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Nik, are difficult for Ishu. Hani’s two White best friends, Aisling and Dee, make her feel like she must hide her true self or be rejected. When Nik announces, to their parents’ horror, that she’s leaving medical school and getting married, Ishu seizes the chance to score points by running for Head Girl. Meanwhile, Hani comes out to her friends, who disdainfully dismiss her bisexuality as theoretical. Distressed, Hani blurts out that she is dating Ishu—who agrees to go along with the ruse if Hani helps her become popular enough to win the Head Girl vote. Deception, reflection, revelation, and hard-won growth ensue. Jaigirdar’s layered exploration of the many identities and relationships that make up our messy, complex, lovable selves is handled with a deft touch against the background of a delightfully romantic storyline enhanced by perfect pacing and well-rounded characterization.

An intelligent, insightful, and utterly swoon-y coming-of-age story. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64567-257-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021


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


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

Close Quickview