ON THE BANK OF OBLIVION

A dreamlike and hazy but sharply memorable tale.

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In Rose’s YA fantasy novel, the lives of a goddess from ancient Greece and a high school senior intertwine in the space between sleep and waking.

The goddess Lethe is Morpheus’ sister as well as the personification of oblivion. She’s always given humans anything they wanted “as long as it helped them think less, feel less, want less.” However, her dominion now stands empty, her realm rarely visited until very recently, when the sleeping soul of a teenage boy crosses over into it and keeps coming back. She wonders if he can stay forever. The boy, Owen Butler, is having a tough time; he’s spending his summer before senior year attending remedial classes while suffering the pain of unrequited love for another boy at school and worrying about an art project. Lately, he has been feeling bone-tired, his mind confused and foggy, and when he falls asleep, he visits a mysterious woman on the banks of a river; near her, he finds no pain or disappointment—only quiet. Rose’s story takes readers on a journey that mixes Greek mythology and fantasy elements, infusing both with themes that relate to memory, trauma, and fear: “Most humans spend their whole lives hiding from their pain, from their fear, from the parts of themselves they don’t want to know.” It’s an intriguing tale made even more interesting by how Owen, as a character, is often blurry and undefined—a deft twist of characterization that matches his narrative development, as every time he visits Lethe, he leaves something of himself behind. However, Owen also has a close-knit family, good friends, and a love for art that helps him find footing back in the waking world; as the story progresses, his growth leads to a satisfying ending. Secondary characters are also well sketched, and Owen’s artwork offers a fun nod to the imagery of tarot cards.

A dreamlike and hazy but sharply memorable tale.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73390-799-6

Page Count: 325

Publisher: Imperative Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 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

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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