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THE LANGUAGE OF CHERRIES

A luminous YA love story with magnetic characters and literary flair.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

A Florida girl and an Icelandic boy communicate without words in this cross-cultural teenage romance.

Sixteen-year-old budding artist Evie Perez is spending an unhappy summer accompanying her geologist dad on his temporary Iceland assignment, fretting that her best friend might be moving in on her boyfriend back in Miami. The one bright spot in the chilly, gray landscape is a cherry orchard that provides both succulent fruit and an inspiring setting for Evie to paint in. An added attraction is 17-year-old Oskar Eriksson, nephew of Agnes, the Scottish woman who runs the orchard; he has a chiseled torso, tousled blond hair, gorgeous dimples, and an uncanny resemblance to a figure in Evie’s painting, right down to a runic tattoo. Oskar is silent and aloof, and Evie supposes he doesn’t speak English; she thus feels free to gripe about her woes, including her beloved abuela’s creeping dementia and her divorced parents’ plan for her to live with her estranged mom in New York. Oskar has his own secrets: His parents and brother died in a car crash; his stutter makes him shy; and he speaks English perfectly. The two spend the summer processing cherries, dodging the odd earthquake, occasionally smoking marijuana, and edging toward passion. But their relationship is complicated by the mystery of Evie’s dream visions, which feature people from Oskar’s past. Hawkins weaves an atmospheric tale that plays Evie’s warmth against Oskar’s reserve and Agnes’ earthiness. The novel alternates between Evie’s point of view, written in well-observed, naturalistic prose with touches of magic, and excerpts from Oskar’s journal in lyrical blank verse. The latter captures Oskar as an awkward, occasionally rancorous adolescent (“It’s the American mentality / that triggers my upchuck reflex: / Take what you want— / when there’s a problem, / throw money at it,” he writes after Evie offers money when she’s caught with pilfered cherries) and as a poetic soul that many teen girls would find hard to resist: “I pick up the guitar / open up my veins / and bleed music / over the strings.” Readers will root for the pair as they try to figure each other out.

A luminous YA love story with magnetic characters and literary flair.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945654-45-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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

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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