SCARS LIKE WINGS

A tender, frank coming-of-age story about the pain and power of survival.

Although 16-year-old Ava Lee survived a fire, she’s not sure if she has the strength to survive returning to high school.

Ava is the only survivor of the fire that killed her mother, father, and cousin, Sara. After a year of painful recovery, Ava’s doctor and her aunt, Cora, who is Sara’s mother, tell her that it’s time to go back to school. Ava reluctantly agrees to try it for two weeks; after the trial period, she is determined to return to her solitary routine, taking classes online and avoiding looking in the mirror. But at school she unexpectedly befriends Piper, a fellow burn survivor with a dark secret. Together, Ava and Piper struggle to be normal—or, at least, as close as they can get to it. Debut author Stewart’s research into the experiences of burn survivors shows: Ava’s and Piper’s wit, honesty, and strength shine with authenticity, and their struggle to understand how to be “ordinary” teenagers is just the right amount of poignant. Stewart treats the appearances of her disabled characters—and, in particular, their ravaged skin—with care, never sugarcoating the truth but also never resorting to condescension or pity. Unfortunately, Asad, the only character of color in the book, is repeatedly referred to as having “hazelnut” skin, a departure that is notable because of its contrast to the descriptions of white characters.

A tender, frank coming-of-age story about the pain and power of survival. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-4882-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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