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COOL. AWKWARD. BLACK.

A fearless and satisfying collection of expansive stories.

A compilation of vibrant entries spanning multiple genres.

The 18 stories from Black authors such as Jordan Ifueko, Leah Johnson, Kwame Mbalia, and Tochi Onyebuchi focus on Black teenagers who are trying to affirm their humanity and figure out their places in the world—and, occasionally, beyond. Themes, including familial reconciliation, friendship, and identity, are embedded in many of the stories, threading the book together seamlessly. In Ibi Zoboi’s “Earth Is Ghetto,” Ingrid, a Haitian American teenager far from her hometown, often feels “like an abandoned building” that “everyone knew was there, but no one cared about how it got to be so broken in the first place.” In an effort to collude with aliens on a mission to populate their planet with humans, the astute teen, an ardent fan of Octavia Butler, learns this task is far more complicated than she imagined. In the adventurous “Drive Time” by Lamar Giles, Annalise and Theo are just trying to learn how to drive but instead end up on a winding, high-energy excursion. The point of view seesaws between the two main characters, providing a humorous balance throughout the warmhearted story. This energetic compilation of narratives is a beautiful tribute to and for young people who often find themselves on the margins of their social settings. The characters find refuge in meaningful friendships, family relationships, and an entire universe that contains their many multitudes.

A fearless and satisfying collection of expansive stories. (contributor bios) (Anthology. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52509-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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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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