This lyrical coming-of-age story effectively explores the complicated nature of love and grief.

BECAUSE OF THE SUN

A teen girl finds solace in The Stranger, the New Mexico desert, and a blossoming romance as she struggles to grieve the death of her emotionally abusive mother.

Dani Falls' provocative and cruel single mother, Ruby, is literally mauled to death by a bear in their Florida backyard. After the newsmaking violent death, a social worker informs the white 17-year-old that she's to live with a maternal aunt she's never met in a small New Mexico border town. Accompanied by only a copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger and an obsessive fear that the euthanized bear is going to return for her too, Dani resides in virtual silence, taking long, dangerous walks in the desert sun. Then she stumbles upon Paulo, the movie-loving Mexican-American gas station cashier who helps her, looks out for her, and introduces her to his wise and nurturing grandmother. She starts school. She speaks to her aunt, who shares the tragic secrets of Ruby's past. Although Dani's connection to Meursault, Camus' protagonist, is a major theme, readers don't need to know anything about the French classic to follow Dani's journey. The author's dreamlike language is at once beautiful and brutal, capturing the lows and highs of Dani's journey to figure out how to move forward knowing she both loved and hated her mother.

This lyrical coming-of-age story effectively explores the complicated nature of love and grief. (author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55145-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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 gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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