THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN

An honest, uncompromising story

Cardi delves into issues of love, acceptance, loss and identity in her engaging debut novel.

High school junior Alex Winchester is a pretty typical teenager. She fights with her mom, is annoyed by her baby brother and expects her younger sister to keep her secrets. Alex does have some problems, such as a paralyzing fear of driving. And she has been noticing an alarming change in her mom’s behavior, which manifests as a delusional disorder. Mrs. Winchester begins to believe that she is the long-missing, presumed-dead aviatrix Amelia Earhart. After a brief hospitalization, Mrs. Winchester returns home with her delusion intact and treats Alex as one of her fellow female aviators. Alex attempts to adapt to her new role as Amelia’s friend as she tries to keep her new reality a secret from her friends and classmates, as well as her new boyfriend, senior Jim Wiley. The author creates nuanced characters and presents them with their flaws and strengths intact, including a character with a mental disorder who never loses her humanity or becomes a caricature. Readers seeking yet another teen problem novel with an unrealistically positive ending should look elsewhere. This novel delivers something far more rare: a well-written, first-person narrative about negotiating life’s curve balls that has a realistic ending.

An honest, uncompromising story . (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6292-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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