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THE ART OF FRENCH KISSING

A thoughtful and delicious romance.

Carter Lane is one step closer to her dream of attending the nation’s top culinary school when she is accepted into its prestigious summer scholarship competition, but arrogant and handsome Reid Yamada isn’t going to make winning easy.

In fact, he is deliberately sabotaging Carter’s dishes—but two can play at that game. Carter, who is Irish-American, and Reid, who is biracial (Japanese/white), have their sights trained on one another as competitors begin to be eliminated. But an obsession that starts out as revenge soon turns romantic when the two are paired up and must work together to win it all. Despite the clichéd premise and the implausibility of sending eliminated teens to the airport at all hours to wait for standby flights home, this meet-cute romance stands out thanks to the nuanced characters and subtle treatment of bigger issues such as race, gender, and money (Carter’s family flirts with poverty). Carter’s insecurities about her culinary skill will resonate with any girl who has aspirations in a field dominated by males, and a sensitive sex scene models for readers what a consensual relationship looks like. A full cast of diverse characters, including Indian-American competitors, Carter’s lesbian best friend, and Reid himself, who identifies as queer, are portrayed three-dimensionally, but Shrum’s (How to Make Out, 2016, etc.) greatest accomplishment may be the intricate and mouthwatering descriptions of each dish.

A thoughtful and delicious romance. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3205-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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