A solid, if occasionally uneven, cross-cultural coming-of-age tale.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

A Haitian immigrant recounts her struggles to find happiness in the United States.

In this historical novel, Fortune tells an immigration story through the eyes of Cynthia Josaphat, a Haitian girl sent to live with her father in Massachusetts as a teen. Cynthia, along with her siblings Sheila and Paul, moves in with her father, Michel, called Micho. He is both determined to have his children with him and neglectful of them, often to an abusive degree (“All three of us were breaking down in the house,” Cynthia says at one point). Cynthia grapples with learning English and adapting to life in a new country as well as Micho’s unreasonable expectations. She also misses her mother and her extended family in Haiti. After her mother’s death, Cynthia finds that her relationship with Micho deteriorates further. She begins to fend for herself, living with friends and relatives in Massachusetts and Georgia while trying to finish school, keep a job, and handle bouts of depression. Cynthia moves from place to place and from one bad relationship to another, dealing with the challenges of poverty and trying to balance her needs against the expectation that she will make a better life for herself in the U.S. than she could have in Haiti. Cynthia’s distant, first-person narration gives a retrospective feel to the text. “Georgia was a tough place to try to find work back then,” she explains, “that was before digital video disks (DVDs) and the internet were popular” is another clue to the never precisely defined era the tale takes place in. This approach often leaves the book feeling more like a memoir than a novel. But Fortune does an excellent job of worldbuilding, bringing the story’s multiple settings to life and conveying the stress and confusion Cynthia feels as she tries to navigate challenging situations made more difficult by the cultural context she finds herself in. Cynthia’s ultimate triumph, delivered in an epilogue, is satisfying.

A solid, if occasionally uneven, cross-cultural coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1735092881

Page Count: 260

Publisher: 5ms Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2021

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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