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A thrilling boarding school story with a satirical edge.

The Plastics meet the Heathers in this murder mystery about ruthless Ivy League ambition.

After scholarship student Olivia transferred to an elite boarding school in 10th grade, she knew intelligence and drive wouldn’t be enough to get her a full ride to an Ivy League school. So she jumped at the chance to become one of the Ivies, a supercompetitive clique of girls who use their cunning, social standing, family power, and skills to ensure they snag coveted spots at America’s top universities. They systematically target their classmates using the List, where they track competitors to sabotage. But when one of the Ivies turns up dead, Olivia finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about her friends, classmates, and even her crush, biracial (Black and implied White) Canadian Ethan. Equal parts murder mystery and competitive college admissions satire, this dark story of an outsider struggling to survive in a cutthroat environment is a descendant of movies like Heathers and Mean Girls. The well-developed tension between Olivia’s shrewd detective work, her former trust in the corrupt Ivies, and her undeniable culpability creates a compelling page-turning pace. Although experienced readers of the genre may anticipate some plot twists, there are enough red herrings to make the final reveal and satirical ending satisfying. Olivia reads as White, like the majority of her classmates; the other Ivies include one Black girl and one Korean American girl.

A thrilling boarding school story with a satirical edge. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30370-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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