An intimate story of growth and self-respect.


A high school junior reevaluates her future after her absentee mother returns.

It’s been almost 6 years since 17-year-old Bliss Walker’s mother left her with relatives in Illinois for a modeling job in Japan. Since then, Bliss has tried to make the most of her life with her Aunt Trish, Uncle Leo, and 18-year-old cousin, Patsy, but she nevertheless feels like an interloper. Hotheaded boyfriend River promises to bring Bliss along when he leaves behind rural, mostly White Lakeville with its endless fields of corn and beans. Then Mama unexpectedly returns with promises of teaming up as a mother-daughter modeling duo in Eastern Europe. To add more confusion, in comes Blake, a biracial (Chinese and assumed White) Chicago transplant whose family runs an organic farm where Bliss and Patsy have summer jobs. There’s something that keeps pulling Bliss toward Blake, perhaps because he’s the only one who asks her, “What makes you happy?” Wilson unravels how much Bliss’ life revolves around prioritizing other people. Bliss downplays her needs and wants in ways that to her feel reasonable; her empathy and loyalty turn into making excuses for others. The book explores complicated, messy relationships that include elements of rivalry, jealousy, love, and care as well as questions of consent and sexual intimacy. After years of undervaluing herself, it takes some deeply intense moments for Bliss to begin to see how dysfunctional and unbalanced her relationships are.

An intimate story of growth and self-respect. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304465-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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

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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 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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