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A thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a wonderfully engaging protagonist.

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Teenage detective Izzy Brown and her sidekick Elton Jones-Davies are back, investigating a cold-case murder in small-town North Carolina.

It’s 2009, and 16-year-old Izzy, her mother, and her brother have moved yet again—this time from Florida to Ashes in the Pines, a touristy locale in the North Carolina mountains. There, Izzy’s twin sibling, Axl, can take advantage of a prep school football scholarship. “The truth was,” narrates snarky Izzy, “we’d just moved our poverty north a few hundred miles to a milder climate.” Izzy gets a kitchen job at Fuller Farms, a summer camp catering to the very rich. Soon, her best friend unexpectedly shows up: Elton, a brilliant teen with autism. Back in 1992, Vance Fuller, the scion of the wealthy Fuller family, was killed—shot full of arrows. His father, Wellington, knows Izzy’s amazing reputation for crime-solving, so he hires her to find his son’s killer; he’s even arranged for Elton to join her. Specifically, he wants them to confirm that archery instructor Buster McClellan was the murderer. It turns out that there’s a plethora of other colorful suspects. Readers learn over time that Fuller Farms, a redoubt of Christian values, may not be what it appears to be. Izzy, as a character, is a wonderfully conflicted creation and not a Nancy Drew clone. For one thing, she has an opioid problem, facilitated by her mother’s shady boyfriend, Lenny Roach, and she’s constantly fighting to keep it under control. Suspects spring up like weeds after a rain, including three campers with whom Vance was entrusted before his death. The plot is truly dizzying; every time Izzy thinks she’s found the culprit, another pops up in their place. The real killer is found, of course, in a nail-biting conclusion. Gibbs is clearly having great fun, and Izzy is a wonderful teen curmudgeon (“Never mind…my father remains useless”). Another Izzy and Elton adventure is planned.

A thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a wonderfully engaging protagonist.

Pub Date: May 22, 2023

ISBN: 9798985675757

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Borne Back Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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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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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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