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Historical fiction at its finest.

Two drastically different gay teens meet in New York City in 1987 at the height of the AIDS pandemic.

Introverted Micah Strauss lives a sheltered life on the Upper West Side with his liberal Jewish parents, who are clueless about his sexuality. CJ Gorman is his opposite: an openly gay, fast-talking, sometimes-compulsive liar who enraptures Micah from the first moment he sees CJ in a plexiglass bra at a dance club: “He looked to me like everything I never would be.” For Micah, unemotional hookups with closeted jocks from his school are the extent of his contact with anyone not straight. What ensues is a tour de force: an exploration of a relationship that pulls back the curtains on queer 1980s New York City to reveal a community wrestling with life and death. With care, emotional depth, and a myriad of period music references, Konigsberg expertly balances Micah’s wonder, fear, despair, and outrage at coming out during the AIDS crisis. Strong characterizations of Micah and CJ are buoyed by excellent dialogue and believable secondary characters—Micah’s doting mother, caring but passive father, hurt and jealous best friend Deena, and supportive lesbian boss—propelling this exhilarating page-turner. It’s sure to be an emotional eye-opener for those who did not live through this time and a resonant picture of resilience, community, and activism for those who did. Micah and CJ are White, as is most of the supporting cast.

Historical fiction at its finest. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-61805-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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