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THE CHOSEN ONE

A FIRST-GENERATION IVY LEAGUE ODYSSEY

A meandering odyssey of hope.

A first-generation college student finds her footing and her power in a strange new world.

Echo Brown has never lived in a place so White, so wealthy, or so foreign. The 19-year-old first-year college student cannot seem to find her place at Dartmouth. Back home in Cleveland, everyone was the same: Black and working class like her and looking for a better life. She and new Black college friends Earnell and Kelicia do their best to support one another in an alien environment. They understand each other’s struggles and the immense pressure from everyone back home to succeed. After her White Christian crush, Bryce, invites her to attend a hypnotist’s show and she is brought on stage, Echo begins to experience the world differently. Portals appear before her, rooms rearrange themselves, demolished buildings are suddenly standing—and no one else notices. Echo worries that the stress of campus life is chipping away at her sanity. The line between reality and her visions continues to blur, Echo’s grades start slipping, and she stands to lose everything she’s worked for. Her journey is long and winding, but eventually she comes to a place of peace. The poetic and supernatural elements of the novel muddy the storytelling at times, and it teeters between suspense and confusion. However, Echo herself is a well-defined character.

A meandering odyssey of hope. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31066-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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