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GOODBYE DAYS

A fine cautionary tale and journey toward wisdom, poignant and realistic.

Seventeen-year-old Carver Briggs feels responsible for the deaths of his best friends and must deal with his own life, now forever altered.

“Where are you guys? Text me back,” Carver texted his friend Mars, who replied, or at least started to, as proven by the half-composed text found on Mars’ phone at the crash site. Mars had been driving while texting, and his car smashed into a semi on the highway, killing Mars, Blake, and Eli. Carver feels responsible, but is he responsible? It turns out that under Tennessee law (Nashville is the setting for the story), Carver might be held as “criminally negligent,” since he knew Mars was driving and knew Mars would reply, even though he never intended to kill anyone. Zentner’s novel peels back the many layers of feeling that Carver experiences as he deals with his family, the families of his friends, and school, the present-tense narration putting readers directly in Carver’s head. However, although Carver is an unusually bright student with a supportive family and therapist, his voice is at times too adult, too didactic in delivering long passages of wise reflections about life normally gained from more time and experience. Still, it is a novel full of wisdom, even if Carver himself hasn’t had time to acquire all of it himself. Carver is white, as are Eli and Blake; Mars is black.

A fine cautionary tale and journey toward wisdom, poignant and realistic. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-52406-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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