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COME A STRANGER

In another fine novel about Crisfield, Md., Voigt tells of the growing up of Mina Smiths, fondly remembered as the girl who brilliantly defended Dicey Tillerman when the English teacher accused her of plagiarism (in Dicey's Song), and for her friendship with Tamer Shipp (of The Runner). Mina is a vibrant protagonist: super-bright, self-assured, likable. At 11, she's a scholarship student and the only black in a summer ballet program for gifted students. Joyfully, she expands her horizons in classical music, multiple friendships, and ballet; yet when she returns the next year, she is awkwardly gangly from a growth spurt; moreover, her developing social consciousness has made her so much less compliant that she's sent home, feeling all the uneasiness of precarious black/white interaction. Meeting Tamer, her father's summer replacement as minister at the local church, she finds a friend with intelligence and a questing spirit to match her own. Mina has always had a relationship of mutual confidence and respect with her parents; now Tamer, precious yet unattainable, becomes the person for whom she feels the warmest regard. Meanwhile, as years pass and schoolgirl crush becomes more mature love, Mina hears the old story about Bullet Tillerman, lost in Vietnam, meets Dicey, and brings old Mrs. Tillerman and Tamer together in a moving scene where each unexpectedly helps the other to make peace with the past. Tamer moves far away, and at the story's close Mina is lucky enough to meet a gifted young man her own age. No brief synopsis can do justice to the novel's rich texture: the warm, complex Smiths family, the carefully wrought members of the close-knit community where they live, the humorous and serious give and take, the gradual rise of Mina's awareness, the fundamentally generous spirit. Not a sequel but a parallel narrative that Voigt's fans will be eager to read; it should bring her new fans as well.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1986

ISBN: 068980444X

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1986

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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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THE DARE

Unlikely to gain the author any new readers but will appeal to her fans.

Marley, who’s on the cusp of graduating from high school, looks forward to going to college in California, but first, she must endure senior prank week.

What began as a harmless tradition to annoy the hapless school principal has evolved into a more serious series of pranks and dares orchestrated by the five Wilder brothers: Everett, Emmett, Rhett, Garrett, and Truett. Rhett, who’s Marley’s former friend, is leading this year’s pranks and imposing severe consequences on non-participants. When their dare results in tragedy for a group of friends—Marley, Luce, Jesse, and Atlas (Marley’s boyfriend)—they make a pact to keep what happened a secret. Marley continues to be wracked with self-reproach, however, and paranoia and guilt begin to tear the teens’ friendships apart. It’s crucial for readers to approach the book with suspension of disbelief, because the characters sometimes act without clear motivation and at other times seem to understand who’s responsible for events based on very flimsy evidence. The dialogue also becomes repetitive at points. While this may not be Preston’s strongest work, her dedicated followers will find in it the suspenseful approach they love. Luce is cued Latine; Atlas reads Black, and the rest of the characters present white.

Unlikely to gain the author any new readers but will appeal to her fans. (Thriller. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593704066

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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