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LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

West (Love, Life, and the List, 2018, etc.) creates a slow but tender story about friendship and love.

Kate Bailey, a white 16-year-old, lives in the small town of Lakesprings with her extended family on their lakefront property.

Her best friend, Alana, who is Polynesian from Hawaii, has convinced Kate to enroll with her in a podcasting class. Kate expects to only do behind-the-scenes work, but when her topic, advice, is chosen by the teacher, Kate is expected to co-host the podcast. Meanwhile, Alana is interested in a handsome Latino classmate named Diego Martinez—and when Kate takes her cousin to tutoring, she discovers that Diego works there and tries to get to know him better so she can relay the information to Alana. When a boy calls into the podcast seeking love advice about a girl whom he’s interested in, Kate is sure that it’s Diego talking about his feelings for Alana. However, Kate slowly realizes her own romantic feelings for Diego—even though she is also trying to get over her ex-boyfriend, Hunter, who moved away and has fallen out of touch. Kate tries to abstain from telling Diego anything due to her friendship with Alana. While Kate becomes known for her straightforward advice on the podcast, she seems oblivious to the problems of people around her.

West (Love, Life, and the List, 2018, etc.) creates a slow but tender story about friendship and love. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-21005-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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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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