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Absorbing.

A depressed girl contemplates suicide.

Sixteen-year-old Anna has astonishing talent as an artist, but she feels apart from the world. She has friends and a loving family, all apparently white, but even when her beloved grandmother dies she cannot seem to feel anything. A standout student at an elite arts academy, Anna paints the bridge she hopes to jump from, and it becomes the centerpiece of the school’s art exhibition. Despite failing at several suicide attempts, Anna remains quite determined to kill herself, although she never articulates why, even to herself, and she conceals her impulses from everyone else. At last, however, she makes one too many attempts and winds up hospitalized. There, she receives treatment that brings her back to reality, and she also learns unexpected facts about her family’s past that hold clues to her condition. Kilbourne writes Anna’s story in first-person chapters told by Anna, her mom, and Anna’s best friend, creating suspense by juxtaposing the different viewpoints. It’s a convincing and affecting narrative about depression, stressing the fact that it is not the sufferer’s fault. In the end, readers get a full picture of how good treatment can restore even suicidal patients to a full life. (Readers will wish they could have learned what finally happened to Anna’s bridge painting, though.)

Absorbing. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4597-3431-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dundurn

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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