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THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Reason, love and smart peers succeed in a captivating story of family heartbreak and religious intrigue.

Religion requires sacrifice—but for David, the prophecy of the Rush end-of-time event has particularly bad timing: baseball season and prom night, when things are sure to heat up with girlfriend Bailey.

Introspective and angry, David carries a heavier burden than most: His older brother died in Afghanistan, and his strongly religious parents joyfully anticipate leaving this world for the next, where the family can again be whole. They turn first to a new church where David feels welcome, then commit to the words of prostitute-turned-preacher Sophia Visser and her end-times prophecy—but David and older sister Mara have plenty of reasons to want to stay in this world. In wonderful irony, when the appointed Rush hour arrives, David and Bailey are finally getting physical (responsibly, both having purchased condoms), while David’s parents mysteriously disappear without a trace at the foretold time. Weaving the present and the recent past, Smith-Ready builds tension and mystery as the family’s tragic past and David’s internal struggles emerge bit by tantalizing bit. Agnostic Mara, scientifically oriented Bailey and gay best friend Kane all provide support and opportunity for thoughtful exploration of religious chasms that have baffled many adults; questions of faith, family and responsibility are juxtaposed with a fast-paced and entertaining “what if” tale with—like life—no guarantee of a happy ending.

Reason, love and smart peers succeed in a captivating story of family heartbreak and religious intrigue. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3948-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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