WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE

A gut-punch story with an uplifting ending.

A trafficked teen readjusts to the outside world after her rescue.

At the motel, she was Poppy, but now she has to find her way back to being Alexa “Lex” Grace. Although Lex’s stable and loving aunt, Krys, and uncle, Jamal, take her in, she makes supportive friends, and even adopts an adorable puppy, the voice in her head tells her she isn’t worthy of it all, and she struggles with trust. Plus, her pimp is still out there, so she knows she’s not truly safe. Lex starts dating Mike, who uses her for sex, which is what feels normal for her. Things go too far when Mike and his friends corner Lex in a school bathroom and sexually assault her. With the support of her aunt and uncle and a couple of new friends, Lex learns to value her self-worth and speak up. This story of resilience and recovery is gritty and heavy but ultimately hopeful. Lex’s first-person narration is straightforward and authentic. Frank discussions of rape, drugs, and abuse can be hard to stomach but are not overly graphic. Lex’s story ends well, but it’s made clear that, unfortunately, she is an exception. Other girls she knows return to prostitution and drugs, with grave consequences. Lex and her aunt are white, and her uncle is black; other secondary characters are racially diverse, and one new friend is gay.

A gut-punch story with an uplifting ending. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-17380-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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

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

Close Quickview