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ASTRAY

From the Gated series , Vol. 2

Still absorbing, if not as polished as its predecessor.

This sequel to the excellent Gated (2013) follows former cult member Lyla as she struggles to adjust to the outside world while fighting off the calls of her family to rejoin their doomsday sect led by charismatic and dictatorial Pioneer.

In the first book, Lyla struggled to escape the Community; now, she deals with her emotions: toward her parents, who remain enthusiastically in the cult, toward former Intended Will, and toward Cody, the sheriff’s son with whom she is starting a possible romance and with whose family she now lives. Additionally, some residents of the small town make it clear they want Lyla out. The town government decides to send all the cult children to the same high school, lumping Lyla in with them, thus causing Lyla even more grief as she attempts to distance herself from them. Pioneer, operating from jail rather like Charles Manson, manages to maintain ultimate control over the Community, with flunky Mr. Brown leading increasingly violent attempts to intimidate Lyla. Parker resorts to a couple of rather unrealistic contrivances to set up the suspense in this book: It’s hard to believe that officials would throw Lyla together with her former cult members and send the cult children back to their still-obsessed families. Nevertheless, Lyla’s psychological turmoil comes across effectively, and the suspense builds to an extremely exciting climax.

Still absorbing, if not as polished as its predecessor. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-449-81602-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

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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

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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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