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Unsettling and sharply observed.

A high school senior must come to terms with complicated feelings about her best friend’s death.

Nora Radford’s long-standing plans for the future include her best friend, Julia Hoskins: They’ll finish high school and attend McGill University as roommates. The problem is, Nora has a chance at early acceptance to another university with a competitive journalism program that would be a dream come true, and she isn’t sure about her sometimes-toxic friendship with Julia. Julia is cool and popular, but she can also be a bigoted bully, constantly putting people down and spreading nasty rumors. After Dillan Fletcher, Nora’s childhood best friend who moved away, transfers to their school, her increasingly close (and possibly romantic) relationship with him throws her friendship with Julia into stark relief, and Nora finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend. When Julia dies unexpectedly, Nora must confront her grief while reckoning with her complicated feelings about Julia as she uncovers a web of lies. Told in alternating timelines set before and after Julia’s death, Ritany’s novel adeptly captures the stomach-churning feeling of betrayal by a friend and the confusion of being constantly manipulated and lied to. Some plot points feel vague, and the alternating timelines can at times be hard to follow, but the book ultimately propels readers through one gut-wrenching discovery after another. The main characters read white; background characters bring diversity in ethnicity and sexuality.

Unsettling and sharply observed. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780593569269

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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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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