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Intriguing and imaginative.

The latest from Kwaymullina (Palyku) weaves Indigenous Australian culture and experiences into a tale of conquest, resistance, and renewal.

Bell Silverleaf, 15, is a Treesinger. Falling Leaves, her community of interconnected humans and trees, is one of six groves created by the Ancestors—“living worlds of green amongst the hard shine of Radiance,” the city-kingdom that powerful alien deities forcibly relocated them to. The Risen, the gods’ human followers who arrived in Mistfall centuries ago, treat Treesingers as inferiors. After a sickness spread from its Birth tree four years ago, Falling Leaves went dormant. Bell’s granny, her grove’s Matriarch, sent her to seek a cure, but Bell was captured, brutalized, and confined to the sun-temple. Her only companion is Blue, the bright spark of the spirit of the twilight-god. Lying is Bell’s survival skill, keeping her safe. She feigns acceptance when she’s chosen to compete against six girls from across the social classes in the deadly Queen’s Test that will determine Radiance’s next ruler. Bell has support from her Ancestors, Blue, and Tricks, a Traveling, or little flowering branch she wears in her hair who speaks to her in the green language. But to succeed, Bell needs human allies. She knows that “Silverleaf secrets were for Silverleaf women and Silverleaf trees”—yet trust requires reciprocity and honesty. Bell is a smart, scrappy teen with emotional scars and a sense of humor. Tucked into a twisty, fast-paced narrative that explores legacies of colonialism are subtle messages about the ever-changing, symbiotic web of life.

Intriguing and imaginative. (Indigenous futurism. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9780593571781

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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