THE DAYS OF BLUEGRASS LOVE

An enduring story populated with endearing characters.

The heated beginnings of an international queer romance.

Tycho Zeling has never really thought about the course his life should take. Perhaps that’s why he makes the sudden decision to take a gap year after high school and spend his summer at an international youth camp in Knoxville, Tennessee. In the Amsterdam airport, the Dutch teen happens to meet up with a fellow junior counselor who is headed for the same camp—Oliver Kjelsberg from Norway. The two strike up a fast friendship and end up sharing a tiny supply closet as their camp housing. After Tycho awakens to his feelings for Oliver, what follows seems fantastically inevitable. The boys’ romance rushes along largely in private until the camp director tells them they need to be more discreet. Even though the majority of the staff support them, Oliver and Tycho decide they would rather leave than live inauthentically. They depart for Oliver’s empty house (his mother is on holiday), where Tycho now has the privilege of seeing his boyfriend in his natural habitat, but he still cannot find a place for himself. Dutch author van de Vendel’s writing is poetic, intensely emotional, and sensitively philosophical in this beautiful translation by Rault. This book, originally published in 1999, is described in the author’s note as standing in defiance of the old trend of depressing, fatalistic queer literature; it leaves readers with an open ending that leans strongly toward the optimistic.

An enduring story populated with endearing characters. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64614-046-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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

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