AGAINST THE WIND

JANE-CLAIRE’S PERSONAL SALVATION

An engrossing, sensitive story of the emotional aftermath of a major natural disaster.

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In Crouch’s YA novel, a teenage girl and her family contend with the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Gulfport, Mississippi, residents are bracing themselves for what they hope will be another rough but manageable storm. Nothing, however, can prepare 15-year-old Jane-Claire Stevens and her family for the devastation that Hurricane Katrina brings. As windows shatter and the wooden frame of their house begins to splinter, they take shelter and wait it out. What they see once the storm has passed is an unrecognizable, uninhabitable town; children’s lifeless feet poke out from beneath the rubble of a flattened home. Meanwhile, Jane-Claire’s father, Mason, a doctor at the local hospital, is faced with a sudden wave of emergency cases. His temper frays in the high-pressure environment, and he’s less than welcoming to his family when they arrive there. He recommends they take refuge inland while he stays behind to treat the injured and deal with their badly damaged home. Jane-Claire, her mother, Dona, and her brother, Lerue, have no option but to head to Huntsville, Alabama, to stay with Dona’s old friend Kit and her husband, Martin. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that Kit’s generosity comes at a price, and soon, an unexpected and terrible occurrence makes the living situation untenable. What begins as a disaster novel develops into a more complex story of rebuilding—not of the property devastated by the storm but of the family, stuck in a new town with a new set of rules. The storm hasn’t really touched Huntsville, but the influx of victims seeking shelter there has had effects of its own. Crouch manages to capture the stigma of otherness that refugees face and does an impressive job of highlighting how difficult it can be to integrate into an unfamiliar community.

An engrossing, sensitive story of the emotional aftermath of a major natural disaster.

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-67329-781-2

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

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

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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