An engaging, if flawed, mixture of mean girls, steamy romance and psychological terror.

DON'T LOOK BACK

This engrossing thriller packs a heady atmospheric punch with plenty of theatrical scares, but it’s a bit too transparent to fully succeed as a mystery.

Samantha is recovering from a complex concussion that not only obliterated her memory, but also wiped clean her personality. Despite this, disturbing, bloody images visit her after she is found alone and bruised in the wilderness, days after she and her best friend, Cassie, went missing. And she is sobered by what she learns about her past self. Teen readers will appreciate Samantha’s earnest attempts to redeem herself in the eyes of her brother and childhood friends, even as she is horrified to learn that she’s alienated them for years with her petty, cruel behavior. Particularly complicated is her relationship with Carson Ortiz, the son of the groundskeeper on her extremely wealthy parents’ estate. The two are obviously attracted to each other, but Samantha’s wicked snobbery has been keeping them apart. Romance fans will love their playful banter, though it’s too bad ethnically stereotypical references to Carson as a “Latin-lover” and his “exotic” good looks linger into this 21st-century text. Samantha’s disjointed hallucinations of an eerily disheveled Cassie and of a hazy sinister figure are genuinely creepy, but for those who guess the culprit early on due to some unsubtle clues, it’s likely the carefully tension-filled pacing won’t work.

An engaging, if flawed, mixture of mean girls, steamy romance and psychological terror. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7512-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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