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DRESS CODES FOR SMALL TOWNS

A spirited, timeless tale of teen self-discovery in those tense, formative high school moments, captured with grace,...

A gender-nonconforming 17-year-old and her crew explore desire in a small town.

The only daughter of a preacher and an artist, Elizabeth “Billie” McCaffrey likes to buck convention and is warmly loved in return by members of the Hexagon, the tightknit group of four boys and one other girl she hangs with in largely white Otters Holt, Kentucky. Ever the instigator, Billie encourages the Hexagon to experiment with an aging microwave that results in nearly burning down the youth room of her father’s church. Brought even closer to the boys she’s been collecting “like baseball cards since third grade” and her beloved friend, Janie Lee, as they perform community service to atone for their transgressions, Billie soon realizes their high jinks barely mask awakening desire as the friends begin to explore new dimensions of their relationship. “I do not know what type of love we are—history, future, or infinity—but we are love all the same,” says Billie, wanting nothing of her group’s emotional intimacy to change while she questions her sexual orientation and tests the uncharted waters of physical attraction. With singing prose and a rollicking plot, Stevens presents a rich palette of characters daring to brave familial and societal expectations to become what they’re meant to be.

A spirited, timeless tale of teen self-discovery in those tense, formative high school moments, captured with grace, lyricism, and insight. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-239851-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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POWERLESS

From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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