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IF TOMORROW DOESN'T COME

A textured book offering readers hope in the face of impossibility.

Just as college freshman Avery Byrne is going to end her life, sirens blare, warning of an unimaginable crisis: An 8-mile-wide asteroid is set to hit Earth in nine days.

Avery, a former straight-A student, is a promising soccer recruit at an elite college in New Hampshire, and yet she finds herself friendless, on academic probation, struggling to find authentic queer love, and desperately missing her childhood bestie, Cass Joshi-Aguilar, who is living in New York City. Avery’s suicide plan tragically mirrors her Aunt Devin’s own back in her family’s homeland of Ireland—a heartbreaking family trauma that has provided a somber backdrop to Avery’s life. Through asynchronous chapters that switch between the present-day apocalyptic survival adventure and Avery’s childhood and teenage years, this courageous tale illuminates a young queer woman’s quest out of self-loathing toward self-acceptance. It boldly asks: When the end is near, how do we live, and whom do we hold most dear? Alongside the bleakness of the asteroid’s impending impact and the melancholy of Avery’s deep depression, St. Jude deftly navigates difficult topics such as death, generational trauma, mental health, and queerness in a conservative Catholic family. Supporting characters who are diverse in ethnicity and sexuality add real depth: Aisha, Avery’s Nigerian roommate and fellow soccer player, is asexual, and gregarious free spirit Cass is an Indian and Mexican lesbian.

A textured book offering readers hope in the face of impossibility. (resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 9, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1136-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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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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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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