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Continuing the heavily allegorical saga begun in Long Night Dance (1989), James confronts independent-minded Kat, 17, with the tradition-bound society of her dead mother. Kat grew up among merchants like her father, who contemptuously treat their women as chattels. In the hill village where she now lives, boys carry spindles they will use as adult weavers (a craft forbidden to women), while girls make pots, abjuring any deviation from customary design; ribald taunts between the sexes are encouraged, and Kat endures suggestive teasing about her pending ritual initiation into womanhood. This involves a bear, which cruelly wounds her in an unsuccessful first trial; the rebellious Kat, deeply averse to the ritual's violence, is nearly suicidal by the time she tries again but manages to survive with her inner self intact. The language here is richly evocative, the images compelling—disturbingly so, since they convey the allure of sexual relationships founded on provocative behavior and male dominance, though clearly decrying them. Kat's tender memories of the first book's gentle Nall and her tempestuous but increasingly subtle interaction with the angry, blind weaver here hint at something more creative and constructive in her future; it remains to be seen whether James can go beyond anger to depict some kind of mature self-realization (or even love) in a third book. Her intrepid protagonist has earned it. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-525-44951-5

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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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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