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An intriguing but ultimately misbegotten project.

After her expulsion from private school for an act of mental-illness–induced vandalism, Alex, 17, begins her senior year at an Indiana public school with trepidation.

Bright and determined to get to college, Alex counts on meds to control her paranoid schizophrenia even if they can’t entirely eliminate the hallucinations that have plagued her for a decade; she relies on her part-time table-waiting job to help keep her occupied. Long before they know her history, bullies at her new school target Alex, but she’s got allies, too—notably Tucker, a classmate and co-worker, as well as the small community of students at school who, like her, must compensate for past misdeeds by doing community service. They sell tickets and snacks, set up seating and provide support for school sporting events. Alex and the group’s charismatic but troubled, possibly autistic leader, Miles, share a mutual attraction that might date back to their strange encounter in a supermarket years earlier, when Alex decided to set a tankful of lobsters free. This debut’s talented author creates interesting characters and a suspenseful plot to draw readers in, but eventually the narrative loses traction and, ultimately, its raison d’être in a nihilistic denouement likely to leave readers feeling manipulated if not just plain cheated. Also troubling is the reliance on toxic stereotypes of mental illness to generate suspense.

An intriguing but ultimately misbegotten project. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229010-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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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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