TAKEDOWN

A smart and believably gritty tale of the streets with genuine heart.

Multidimensional characters convincingly play on the sympathies of readers in this realistic and suspenseful urban drama.

After being released from juvenile detention, Darren vows revenge against the leader of the drug-dealing gang for whom he took the fall. He’s an intelligent young man with dreams of making it in the music world, a sweet adoration for his young brother, and a magnetic attraction to Jessica, a girl at school; Darren’s also an informant for the police. By becoming a dealer for the same gang that pinned the blame on him, he hopes to provide tips that will help bring down the head of the organization, Diamond Tony. Short, action-filled chapters are expertly crafted to urge readers on, and the gradual revealing of details about Darren’s family and background adds a layer of depth. Many chapters end with raps penned by Darren, often expressing his feelings about what’s going on in his life, and while these fit well with his constructed persona, they feel a little awkward at times—perhaps since they are meant to be heard over a beat instead of read. While this does interrupt the flow of the narrative a bit, it does not detract overall from what is an exceedingly readable novel.

A smart and believably gritty tale of the streets with genuine heart. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6311-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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

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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