FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE

Buoyant writing and wry humor balance the pathos in this powerful debut, a moving tale of friendship as refuge and shield...

Failed by the institutions and adults who rule their lives, three stressed-out teens rely on their friendship to overcome—or at least survive—abuse, depression, and homophobia.

Having been brutally outed by classmates, Jeremy dreads returning to St. Francis Prep, but at a teacher’s urging, he reluctantly starts an art club. His first recruit is Mira, whose crippling depression last year landed her in a hospital psych ward. There, she met Sebby, who’d been savagely beaten by school homophobes. Their bond became a lifeline for each; now their friendship nourishes Jeremy. Whether it can replace adult support is another matter. Jeremy’s the child of supportive, emotionally mature dads. Mira’s the biracial daughter of a workaholic black lawyer and white stay-at-home mom; her high-achieving sister’s at Harvard. Their high expectations weigh heavily on Mira. Orphaned, openly gay Sebby has endured multiple foster placements. He lacks a safety net. Terrified to return to school, he lies about where he spends his days to his foster mother. Well-intentioned but unfit to parent a gay teen, she threatens to send him to a group home. Constrained by his teacher role, Peter—the adult best-equipped to offer support—can do little as stresses mount. Rounded characters large and small, drawn with insight and empathy, drive the plot.

Buoyant writing and wry humor balance the pathos in this powerful debut, a moving tale of friendship as refuge and shield against a hostile world . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-233175-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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

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