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OUT OF THE BLUE

An upbeat romantic fantasy with serious themes.

Merfolk legends get a queer makeover.

Told in alternating first-person points of view, the story kicks into action as two very different lives intersect when Los Angeles high school junior Sean, a recently dumped, rom-com–obsessed, aspiring film director and beach lifeguard, rushes to the aid of someone lying in the sand. But Ross, the person he rescues, is actually Crest, a mer who is embarking on a tradition from the ocean, or Blue: They must help a human by carrying out a selfless act during a full moon cycle spent on land before returning to life underwater. The two team up in a Hollywood-inspired fake-romance ploy to help Sean win back the attention of Dominic, the boy who dumped him for Sean’s former best friend, no less. As events unfold, Ross’ and Sean’s feelings become more real than scripted, and they both face truths that challenge their preconceptions. Despite the clear storyline, the pacing is uneven and the character development at times inconsistent. A core strength, however, is June’s approach to nonbinary gender as a central facet of merfolk culture, creating a fresh way to explore gender presentation and identity. Ross, Sean, and Dominic read as White; other characters reflect multiple ethnicities and queer identities, the former cued largely by names and physical descriptions.

An upbeat romantic fantasy with serious themes. (Romantic fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-301520-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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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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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