ONLY ON THE WEEKENDS

Emotionally frank scenes from a romance and the cutting-room floor.

Friendship, family, and film collide in this queer love triangle.

Life in London is star-studded for 16-year-old Mack, a Black British boy of Nigerian Yoruba descent, son of film director Tejumola Fadayomi. Mack gets asked on the red carpet about his rumored relationship with Finlay, the leading actor in his father’s latest film. The book then moves back in time 18 months to when Mack gets to know Maz, a girl at school. They become fast friends, bonding over food and the shared loss of their mums to cancer. Mack sees this as an opportunity to get close to Maz’s cousin Karim, a popular athlete of Egyptian descent. They start dating but are forced to hide their relationship; K isn’t out to his basketball team. Mack’s poetry, text messages, and intimate conversations give insight into his insecurities, from wearing makeup in public to being the subject of fat jokes in the press: This raw beauty and honesty are the verse novel’s greatest strengths. When Mack and his dad temporarily move to Scotland to shoot a movie, he can only see K on the weekends. Their relationship is further tested when Mack actually begins to fall for Scottish Fin, who is White, trans, and has 2 million social media followers. Once this central tension is set, the novel, that includes diverse cultural influences in the dialogue, builds slowly and ends abruptly. (This review has been updated for factual accuracy.)

Emotionally frank scenes from a romance and the cutting-room floor. (Verse novel. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-315798-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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

Close Quickview