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NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES

As with social media, the real story here requires digging beneath the surface, and it richly rewards the effort.

Kat wants to be wanted and liked for her true self, but failing that, she will settle for having a desirable alter ego.

Kat Sanchez—fat, Puerto Rican and White, 17—has complicated relationships but finds an emotional outlet in photography. However, her Instagram account sees little engagement, even from people who know and supposedly care about her. Kat’s place of creative escape is just another venue for feeling disconnected and rejected—until she creates a fake account using photos she took of a co-worker who has sworn off social media. Blond, beautiful Max, Kat’s alter ego, quickly gets lots of likes and even connects with a fellow creator, pale, blue-eyed, “fat femme” Elena, who also calls Southern California home. Kat knows her burgeoning relationship needs to be built on an honest foundation, but the allure of getting likes and the risk of losing face make it difficult. As her online lie inevitably crumbles, Kat is forced to become more open, honest, and real in her IRL relationships. Kat’s struggle for authenticity with her family and friends, not to mention her own sense of self, sparks important questions about what is valued and what is truly valuable. Maldonado’s willingness to let Kat be unlikable at times and to embrace a bittersweet and complicated ending highlights the need for nuance and grace in the stories we tell about ourselves and others.

As with social media, the real story here requires digging beneath the surface, and it richly rewards the effort. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4718-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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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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