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ICEMAN

In his second novel, the author of Shadow Boxer (1993) again depicts two brothers grappling with a violence spawned by their father; again, the older (here, Duane, 17) has renounced a brutal sport (ice hockey) while the younger (Eric, 14) still pursues it. This time the younger boy is the viewpoint character; and Dad is still around to cheer, with vicious enthusiasm, when he mauls his opponents. Duane has been the family pariah since he gave up hockey for guitar and good grades; both parents focus on Eric. Dad has a demented dependence on his hockey games, whose ferocity he vicariously shares; Ma, a humorless former nun, urges him to church. Disliked and feared by his teammates, out of touch with his feelings, Eric takes refuge in the local mortuary, where he has struck up a friendship with a gruff old man whose necrophilia, once revealed (in a startling but not a graphic scene) shocks Eric into confronting his own inner darkness and deciding to give up hockey. The suspense here doesn't hinge on Eric's savage behavior in the vividly depicted matches, but on what it expresses—a fierce angst that might well have led to tragedy. In the end, it doesn't: Duane finally reaches out to Eric with a concern that helps him turn himself around. Dad's subsequent mellowing doesn't quite compute; but that's a minor flaw in a powerfully written story that examines the role of inner rage in a troubled family where it makes it particularly difficult for the favored younger son to win autonomy. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-023340-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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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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