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HOW TO MAKE A WISH

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

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: Jan. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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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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