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BREAK THE FALL

An uplifting quest for Olympic victory.

A gymnast’s road to the Olympics is complicated when her demanding coach becomes embroiled in a ripped-from-the-headlines scandal.

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Lee is thrilled to make the U.S. gymnastics team alongside her best friend, Emma. Pain from a back injury is a constant threat, but Audrey isn’t about to let it derail her shot at Olympic gold in Tokyo. When her coach is arrested and accused of sexually assaulting Audrey’s teammate Dani, Audrey is surprised and dismayed that not everyone on the team believes Dani’s story. With Tokyo on the horizon, the fractured team must come together if they want to deliver a big win. Audrey has also caught the eye of handsome snowboard champion Leo Adams, but there’s no time (well, maybe a little time) for romance. Readers looking for in depth #MeToo commentary won’t find it: While still compelling, the storyline provides more of a background for the nuts and bolts of competitive gymnastics, expertly capturing the excitement and pressure of being part of a high-level sports team as well as the mental and physical sacrifices. The dynamics between the teammates, while angst-y, feel mostly realistic, and the importance of women and girls supporting one another is emphasized. Audrey is biracial (her father is white, and her mother was adopted from Korea), Leo is biracial (black/white), Dani is Mexican American, and there is additional diversity in the supporting cast.

An uplifting quest for Olympic victory. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11417-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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