A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.

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MUSICAL YOUTH

Two very different teenagers with a shared gift for music fall in love over a summer in this YA novel by Antiguan and Barbudan author Hillhouse.

In Antigua, painfully shy Zahara can play guitar and has an encyclopedic knowledge of famous musicians, but she just can’t work up the courage to perform in front of people—and her strict grandmother likely wouldn’t allow it, anyway. Then she meets a cute, confident boy who calls himself Shaka; he’s not only her match in musical knowledge, he also writes his own rap verses with a schoolboy hip-hop crew. Shaka finds himself smitten by Zahara and tries to bring the anxious girl out of her shell. However, he has his own doubts and insecurities underneath his showman persona. Unlike the private-schooled, light-complexioned Zahara, public-schooled Shaka comes from the poor part of town and has been ridiculed all his life for his dark skin. As summer starts, the two teens grow closer, and a tender romance begins to blossom. Soon, Zahara and Shaka are caught in a whirlwind of creative collaboration, self-discovery, and family revelations that will leave them forever changed. In the tradition of the best YA stories, Hillhouse’s characters are convincing because they’re unfailingly realistic in their interactions, interests, and struggles. Her players sound like actual people, and specifically like Antiguan teens. Through their personal journeys, readers learn about issues that affect young people in Antigua and across the globe, including internalized racism, colorism, economic inequality, generational trauma, and old-fashioned teenage angst. This is not to say that the book is heavy or maudlin in tone; on the contrary, Hillhouse’s writing is overwhelmingly joyful and explicitly invested in the power of Black joy, Black excellence, and Black self-love.

A charming and edifying work with a romance that will make YA fans swoon.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73382-996-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Caribbean Reads Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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