RULES FOR BEING A GIRL

A light read about a heavy topic.

A teen has a feminist awakening after being assaulted by her teacher.

Marin is a pretty ordinary high school student—she is navigating senior year and relationships, studying hard to get into her dream school, and aspiring to become a journalist. She and her best friend, Chloe, are co-editors of Bridgewater Prep’s school paper, and they spend their free time in the newspaper office with their adviser and favorite teacher, Mr. Beckett. Bex, as all his students call him, is not like other teachers—he is young and gregarious and doesn’t keep his private life a secret. Both Marin and Chloe think Bex is cute and are a little obsessed with his sex life. After Bex offers Marin a ride home from school and then kisses her without consent, Marin wonders what she did to give him the wrong signals. When neither Chloe nor the school’s board believes her, Marin starts fighting back against the unwritten rules for girls. The book shines a light on the pressures of being a girl and the double standards that readers will immediately recognize and appreciate or learn from. The writing is complicated in the way that female friendships can be. Although the authors include a passage about intersectionality, with all major characters seeming to be white, it feels like an afterthought.

A light read about a heavy topic. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-280337-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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

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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