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PAPER PLANES

A queer coming-of-age story that embraces the mess and complexity of identity and relationships.

Two teens trapped at summer camp confront their feelings about their history and senses of self in this contemporary graphic novel.

After “the incident,” Dylan, a White nonbinary teen, and Leighton, a biracial asexual girl, face a threat to their futures at high school unless they can demonstrate personal growth to the counselors at a summer camp for kids with behavior challenges. Although they were once close friends, conflicting desires for their relationship and the disapproval of Leighton’s parents have created a rift between them that even their paper-airplane notes struggle to fly across. Losing Leighton is what Dylan fears most, but they have always prioritized her feelings before their own. Meanwhile, Leighton battles her own frustration that her family (especially her mom) and Dylan refuse to accept more than one part of her identity: She is Black and White, an artist and an athlete, and in love but uninterested in dating or sex. The narration flips between their two perspectives, indicated by illustrations of rocket ships for Dylan and pink roller skates for Leighton. Flashbacks in between scenes at camp, cued visually by a faded color palette and yellowed pages, reveal the story of their relationship. Tension builds as each memory, beginning with the first time they connected, ramps up toward the climactic incident. The art depicts diversity in the world, including casual representation of fatness.

A queer coming-of-age story that embraces the mess and complexity of identity and relationships. (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781952303548

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Maverick

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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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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