SMASH IT!

Inspired by Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes (2015), a teenager makes a list to change her life.

Olivia Johnson is a 17-year-old Black girl tired of living her life in the background. Spending most of her time with her two best friends, Eli and Dré, as their No. 1 supporter despite more-than-platonic feelings for one of them, and navigating a complex relationship with her mom, Olivia has her fair share of reasons for feeling she is better off hiding in the shadows. An unfortunate experience with being the only one not wearing a costume at a Halloween party due to self-consciousness about her body and being afraid of standing out leads to her making a list of things she wants to do and opportunities she wants to embrace in order to experience a fuller life. It begins with doing the thing that scares her most: auditioning for the school musical. Following her list spurs welcome changes and unwelcome drama in her life, and Olivia finds she has to rise to the challenges despite feeling unprepared for all of it. Simone’s prose masterfully crafts an honest and likable voice in Olivia that is bolstered by the cast of diverse supporting characters and combines that with compelling, well-paced plot points. Readers will find themselves rapt with anticipation and excitement and filled with compassion for Olivia’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love.

Stellar. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-14650-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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