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A missed opportunity.

An elaborate revenge plot to take down the manipulative, bullying popular crowd consumes Chloe Whittaker’s senior year in Australian author Valett’s debut.

The exclusive Arlington Prep near Beverly Hills isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, popular kids (dubbed Level Ones in the hierarchy cooked up by narrator Chloe, who considers herself an invisible Level Three, and her best friend, Monica) rule the school with an iron fist. Last year Monica became obsessed with the Level Ones, leading to her downfall and the fracturing of their friendship. Now Chloe will make them pay. To infiltrate the in-crowd, Chloe blackmails handsome, green-eyed lacrosse team captain Will Bishop, who tells her that posing as his girlfriend will yield the quickest access to his social circle. Soon, Chloe is perpetuating the very behavior she claims to loathe. Predictably, Chloe falls for Will, who is also on her hit list, while struggling with guilt over her actions. A suspension of disbelief is a must. Teachers blatantly ignore truly awful behavior by Level Ones, and the author waits until the very end to humanize them and reveal the truth about what happened to Monica. Overwrought dialogue and underdeveloped characters further hamper what might have been an affecting exploration of bullying and the corrupting nature of power. Most characters appear white; there is minor diversity in some secondary characters.

A missed opportunity. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291808-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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