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CUPCAKE

An entertaining teen romance that bakes in a story of self-discovery.

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A teenager’s usual confidence wavers when she’s unexpectedly chosen for the homecoming court in this YA romance.

High school senior Ariel Duncan, a talented baker with a curvy silhouette, generally goes by Cupcake. Her baking (and rom-com movie) vlog has some 12,000 followers—not bad for small-town Honeycomb, Georgia. She’s not into football culture, so she is astonished to be nominated for the homecoming court. As she puts it to herself, “I love my body, but I’ll never fit the mold of what society thinks a princess should be.” Her prince partner is Rhys Castle, the school’s muscular, square-jawed “golden boy quarterback.” Strangely, when he’s given the opportunity to switch partners, he refuses. Though Rhys tends to be grimly uncommunicative, he can seem friendly, even flirty, keeping Cupcake off balance. One reason she loves baking is the control it gives her: “If you followed a recipe to the letter, you were ensured a great result.” But there’s no recipe for a relationship with Rhys, causing Cupcake’s steadfast self-esteem to falter when she finds herself falling for him. As homecoming approaches, Cupcake discovers new depths in Rhys, faces her self-doubts, and is challenged to bravely claim her inner princess. In her latest YA romance, O’Gorman treads some familiar ground with her slightly overweight hero and the will-she-get-the-guy plot. On the other hand, Cupcake doesn’t have (or need) a makeover scene, and given a judgmental culture, her doubts have some merit. As a little girl comments, there are no fat Disney princesses. The romance is appealing, tying in well with Rhys’ character development, and amusing scenarios enhance the story. Rom-com fans will especially appreciate how the ending cleverly amasses genre tropes when Cupcake makes an over-the-top public proclamation of her feelings.

An entertaining teen romance that bakes in a story of self-discovery.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64937-032-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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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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