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THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET

Heart-rending and healing; a winning blend that will leave readers satisfied.

An Indigenous teen’s journey to self-discovery, community, and acceptance.

Change is coming for Métis 18-year-old Lou whether she likes it or not. Her mom is away selling her beadwork at powwows, and her uncles are arguing about their ice cream business. She’ll be spending her summer running the Michif Creamery alongside her best friend, Florence, and her coercive newly ex-boyfriend (both White). Former friend King returns to town three years after their falling out, but she can’t decide if she’s ready to rebuild their relationship. When her White biological father is released following his prison sentence for the violent sexual assault of Lou’s mother when she was 16, he begins harassing her and threatening the family business. Lou must decide if she will keep this to herself or seek support in her community. Bisexual Jamaican Canadian King gently helps Lou navigate the intersections of her trauma and her sex repulsion, introducing her to the concepts of asexuality and demisexuality, identities in which she finds clarity and hope. Their tender romance is just one of several kinds of connection and care that are given equal weight by Lou’s compelling first-person narration. Debut author Ferguson, who is Métis and White, touches on intergenerational family suffering at the hands of the state, mental health, substance abuse, racism, sexual harassment and assault, and missing and murdered Indigenous women—all with nuance and care.

Heart-rending and healing; a winning blend that will leave readers satisfied. (content warning, author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308616-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Heartdrum

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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INDIVISIBLE

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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