HOCKEY GIRL LOVES DRAMA BOY

Compelling characters presented through captivating, expressive illustrations.

Ice hockey dynamo Alix asks cool-under-pressure theater-loving Ezra for help with managing her temper, sparking an unlikely friendship and journeys of self-discovery.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, teen Alix is struggling with Lindsay, the mean captain of her hockey team who verbally torments her in front of the other girls. Meanwhile, Ezra is recovering from a breakup with his boyfriend and fielding homophobic insults from a classmate. After physically lashing out at Lindsay, Alix approaches Ezra. He agrees to work with her, and their honesty and vulnerability allow them to confide in each other. The story thoughtfully explores identity, sexuality, and complex family dynamics: Ezra shares information about his sexual identity (“I’m attracted to lots of different people, not just guys”) and traumatic past with his father; Alix opens up about her romantic inexperience and complicated relationships with her mom and absent father. Alix and Ezra read as real, complex, interesting, unique teenagers, and their romance unfolds naturally and believably. Amid the sparse grayscale illustrations, Hicks makes stunning, purposeful use of touches of light blue, carefully highlighting details like Ezra’s hair and Alix’s hockey uniform. The visuals are crucial to readers’ understanding of the story, offering powerful images full of tension and nuance. The ending feels a bit abrupt, but readers will forgive that thanks to the overall incredible storytelling and character building. The main characters appear white; there is racial diversity in the supporting cast.

Compelling characters presented through captivating, expressive illustrations. (bonus art) (Graphic romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781250838728

Page Count: 304

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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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