Despite the heavy topics addressed, the story never feels hopeless or depressing, as the author writes with nuance and care...

HOW TO MAKE A WISH

The indelible impact parents can make is at the heart of this relationship-driven coming-of-age novel.

Grace’s father died in Afghanistan, and her mother is physically present but emotionally immature and manipulative. Her best friend, Luca, was abandoned by his father, leaving his mother to hold things together for her own family as well as others’. Eva has never met her father and is struggling with grief in the wake of her mother’s sudden death. A talented ballerina, Eva relocates from New York City to live with Luca and his mother, her late mother’s best friend, in their small New England seaside town. She and Grace form an intense friendship that blossoms into romance. Both girls easily accept their sexuality—Eva is lesbian and Grace bisexual—as do those around them. Issues of race are naturally woven into the backdrop rather than acting as a focal point of the story, with all major characters being white apart from mixed-race Eva, whose mother was black and father is white. Blake paints a realistic portrait of Grace, a gifted young pianist who must come to terms with her deep love for an alcoholic fantasist of a mother who engages in endless irresponsible liaisons with men and sabotages her daughter’s dream of attending a Manhattan conservatory.

Despite the heavy topics addressed, the story never feels hopeless or depressing, as the author writes with nuance and care about her cast of admirably strong, loyal, and resilient teens who face head on the challenges life throws at them . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-81519-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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