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A modern gothic thriller with emotional depth.

A forgotten island holds the answers to more than one mystery in this haunting page-turner.

Charlotte and her parents live alone on Levay Island, surrounded by cliffs and separated from the coast of England by a misty sea. After her traumatic accident earlier in the year, she’s been confined to the island, struggling with memory lapses and plagued by the feeling that something isn’t quite right with her family. In a small town across the water, Ajay is reeling from the disappearance of his friend Oleander. He can’t shake the dire circumstances under which she went missing or her erratic behavior in the days prior. Ajay decides to retrace Oleander’s steps, and when his investigation leads him to Charlotte’s island, the two find kinship and a common goal in their search for truth. But to their dismay, it seems the more they try to probe the island’s secrets, the more it fights to stay forgotten. Both the gloominess of Ajay’s seaside town and the crumbling grandeur of Charlotte’s island lend atmospheric dread that complements the story’s gothic elements: unreliable narrators, visions, uncanny occurrences, and more. Twists and turns abound, but the heart of the book is its poignant exploration of regret, grief, and loss. Ajay is of South Asian descent, bringing subtle tension to interactions with the otherwise predominantly White cast, including Charlotte and her parents.

A modern gothic thriller with emotional depth. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9781770866966

Page Count: 280

Publisher: DCB

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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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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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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