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JADE FIRE GOLD

A magic-filled debut that will leave readers eager for more from this author.

Two teens discover their intertwined destinies as war returns to the land.

Sixteen-year-old Ahn lives with her grandmother in a small village that’s disappearing into the ever expanding desert. She can’t remember much of her past, before she was found alone in town as a child of 6 and adopted by her Ama; all she can do is focus on their survival by pilfering food—and keeping her secret hidden. Ahn is a Tiensai, those possessing strong spiritual powers who can use magic and are hunted mercilessly by cruel, fanatical Diyeh priests. As the Shi Empire goes into mourning for the deceased emperor and the threat of another war looms, Ahn discovers a dark side to her magic. She also meets enigmatic, 18-year-old Altan, the rightful heir, who is seeking the mythical Life Stealer in order to bring back peace and prosperity. The worldbuilding is rich and layered, mixing Chinese culture and mythology with martial arts and fantastical magic. The depiction of the impact of war, as shown by the Shi Empire’s colonialism, power imbalances with neighboring civilizations, and effect on families and communities, is nuanced and balanced with discussions of strong leadership, national pride, and service. The smoldering romance takes place against the backdrop of themes of duality and complementarity in nature, trauma and revenge, self-sacrifice, truth in history, and the fight for a better future.

A magic-filled debut that will leave readers eager for more from this author. (glossary, notes about the fantasy world) (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305636-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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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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