A PRETTY IMPLAUSIBLE PREMISE

Implausible? Maybe, but also smart and infused with enough heart to make suspending disbelief a pleasure.

Two teens navigating recent tragedies feel an instant connection when they meet on their first day of senior year, but the guilt they each carry threatens their burgeoning relationship.

Hattie’s mother took off 11 years ago. Since then, Hattie and her dad have fantasized about how the three will be reunited when Hattie swims on the U.S. team at the Olympics. But since 7-year-old Elijah drowned while Hattie was lifeguarding, Hattie has been unable to fathom a future that involves swimming. Presley has relocated from Victoria, British Columbia, to Southern California with his mum and her wife. He and his twin brother, Mac, were ice-skating phenoms until Mac was killed in an auto accident that left Presley with injuries that ended his competitive figure skating dreams. Both feel responsible for the people they have lost, and both deal with physical manifestations of their grief; it is mutual recognition of loss that draws the two together. Their relationship quickly deepens in ways that uncannily parallel the romance novel that has been Hattie’s lifeline since Elijah’s death. Caring friends, an evacuation spurred by wildfires, and an impromptu road trip all play parts in helping the teens move toward healing. Rivers explores trauma with sensitivity: Readers see the wide range of emotions and coping mechanisms that can come into play. Hattie and Presley are cued white; there is some diversity in race and sexual orientation among their friends.

Implausible? Maybe, but also smart and infused with enough heart to make suspending disbelief a pleasure. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781616208165

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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

INDIVISIBLE

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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