SILENT ALARM

Overall, a moving, insightful treatment of a difficult and timely topic.

Unassuming violinist Alys finds her life tragically altered when her older brother Luke kills 15 people, including himself, in a school shooting.

The book opens with the shooting itself, told in tense, lyrical and viscerally felt detail. Recognizing Alys huddled under a table, Luke chillingly, incongruously pauses his rampage to tell her "Hey." Luke shoots the girl hiding next to Alys, and later, when Alys brushes her hair, she finds "tiny pieces of bone matted in the long strands." After the shooting, both Alys' best friend, Delilah, and her boyfriend, Ben, whose sister was one of Luke's victims, distance themselves from Alys. Her father drinks heavily, and her parents fight while reporters wait outside their home. Two storytelling devices successfully evoke Alys' pain and bewilderment in the shooting's aftermath. Thoughts that cannot yet be spoken aloud appear in italicized parentheticals set off by line breaks: "The Luke I thought I knew wasn't / (a killer)." Additionally, Luke and some of his victims appear as visions and speak to Alys, giving voice to the absent Luke and to Alys' own grief. The near uniformity with which Alys is shunned after the incident, however, seems oversimplified, and the hostility of Ben's mother in particular is almost a caricature.

Overall, a moving, insightful treatment of a difficult and timely topic. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-25789-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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