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THE PASSING PLAYBOOK

A game-changing score to the back of the net.

A teenage soccer star starting over at a new school finds love and courage as he takes the field to fight for his team and what he believes in.

Spencer, a biracial (Black and presumably White) transgender boy, begins sophomore year with a firm game plan—blend in and keep his identity private. However, when he’s confronted with an opportunity to join the boys soccer team, Spencer can’t resist the challenge, especially after the cute vice captain says he doesn’t think Spencer has what it takes. Soccer means everything to Spencer, and he refuses to give up his shot to play, even if he has to keep it a secret from his overprotective parents. This contemporary sports romance subverts typical patterns of coming-out stories about transgender youth by centering the feelings of the transgender main character, giving him full agency over his identity disclosure, and providing him with an affirming support system that includes other queer and transgender characters. Initial rivalry heightens the tension between Spencer and his crush, a White boy whose Christian extremist family doesn’t know he’s gay. Their romantic arc adds another layer of nuance to the coming-out narrative. Spencer’s connection to his younger brother, Theo, who is autistic, is also woven into the story. Balancing hope and honesty, this debut deftly handles multiple social themes, including racism, privilege, identity, and accessibility.

A game-changing score to the back of the net. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984815-40-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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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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