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A fast-paced undersea thriller with an important environmental message.

Danger lurks beneath the depths for a young aquanaut and her new free-diving friend in Jeansonne’s YA adventure novel.

Fourteen-year-old Jeanbeau Labourde and 12-year-old Addie Lyons meet in pretty dire circumstances: Jeanbeau, a free-diver and spearfisherman from the U.S. Virgin Islands community Frenchtown, makes the mistake of diving for too long while exploring the reef near Capella Island and blacks out. Luckily, Addie and her family, aquanauts living in a submarine-like home conducting research at various depths, find the young diver and rescue him. Friendship, or perhaps something more, immediately blooms between Jeanbeau and Addie. More danger arises, however, when the ne’er-do-well Joe Brooks enters the picture. Jeanbeau, who lives in the same town with Brooks, is immediately suspicious, noting that “trouble always seems to come around when Joe does.” And trouble does come when Joe’s drug smuggling operation, which involves stashing contraband in an old shipwreck, is threatened by a family of nosy scientists (Addie and her parents) poking around in there. In simple prose and fast-paced chapters, the author spins a yarn filled with drama and excitement. In the midst of all the action-packed plotting, Jeansonne also finds time to educate his readers about aquatic life, scuba diving, and—in a very prescient scene where Addie and her father find leaked diesel fuel—the hazardous effects human activities have on marine ecosystems. While some of the story elements, particularly those related to the smuggling operation, may be too mature for some young readers, the book does an excellent job balancing high-stakes peril and educational content for middle-grade and YA audiences. The narrative drops the ball when it comes to Joe—his character seems underdeveloped, and his speech can veer into stereotypical patois (dropping letters and saying “da” instead of “the” in Caribbean dialect). Joe aside, this is a fun, splashy plunge.

A fast-paced undersea thriller with an important environmental message.

Pub Date: April 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798390491928

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

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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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An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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