Come for the rivalry, stay for the romance.

Two art students collaborate anonymously on a queer fan comic while clashing in real life over a prestigious scholarship.

To high school senior Iliana Vrionides, the Capstone Foundation Award represents opportunities that her affluent and well-connected peers at the Alabama Conservatory of the Arts and Technology take for granted. Iliana’s determination to win the award is intensified by her desire to beat her classmate and nemesis Rhodes Ingram who, in Iliana’s eyes, exemplifies the highbrow snobbery that art competition juries favor. Iliana often vents her frustration to I-Kissed-Alice, a friend she met on fandom database Slash/Spot and with whom Iliana co-authors “Hearts and Spades,” an Alice in Wonderland fan comic. Little does she know that I-Kissed-Alice is actually Rhodes, whose struggle with depression and familial pressure to succeed has rendered her unable to create artwork for school. As the deadline for the Capstone project proposal draws near, the animosity between Iliana and Rhodes comes to a peak even as they make plans online to meet in person. With a premise based on the "secret identity" trope, this novel could have fallen into cliché. Instead, it digs into the messiness of relationships colored by personal bias and misunderstanding. The protagonists are alive with emotions and flaws, and their chemistry as both enemies and allies crackles off the pages. Iliana is white, bisexual, and fat; Rhodes is white and queer.

Come for the rivalry, stay for the romance. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21985-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020


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


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

Close Quickview