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THE TRAGEDY PAPER

Boarding school students learn the consequences of poor decision-making.

Last year at the Irving School—motto: “Enter Here to Be and Find a Friend”—something terrible happened. Readers will have to push through nearly 300 pages, narrated alternately by Tim Macbeth, a recently graduated senior who transferred to Irving for his final semester, and Duncan Meade, the current senior who inherited Tim’s dorm room and with it, a stack of CDs containing Tim’s reminiscences of that fateful school term, to find out what it was. Tim, a deeply self-conscious albino, spends an idyllic 18 hours stranded in Chicago with lovely fellow senior Vanessa en route to Irving and is totally smitten. Tim’s hopes are dashed by Vanessa’s commitment to her popularity and her current boyfriend, the loathsome and jealous yet handsome Patrick. Predictably, however, Tim goes along with Vanessa’s furtive occasional advances, all the while whipsawing between his conviction that she cares for him and his crippling self-loathing. Duncan, meanwhile, is alternately transfixed and horrified by Tim’s story, as he feels partly responsible for the terrible outcome of Tim, Vanessa and Patrick’s love triangle and eventually hopes to mine it for his Tragedy Paper, Irving’s multidisciplinary approach to a senior thesis. With his overreliance on obvious foreshadowing, debut author LaBan creates a mystery without thrills and parallel romances that lack any frisson. Readers will wonder, what was the point?

Completely, sadly skippable. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87040-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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