THE SOUND OF DROWNING

A heartbreaking love triangle, for readers who can’t stand love triangles.

Once, 17-year-old Meredith “Mer” Hall loved the ocean, indie music, and especially Ben Collins, her lifelong best friend–turned-boyfriend. Now she fears the sea, resents any human connection, and especially loathes herself for the way she ruined things. Still, even after hurting him so badly, she treasures the few secret hours she can snatch with Ben; so when new boy Wyatt Quinn—handsome, cocky, barely hiding his own pain—starts to get close, Mer’s afraid of risking her fragile stability. Alternating between flashbacks of her slowly developing relationship with Ben and her current efforts to cope with her crumbling life, Mer’s spiky, acerbic narration cannot conceal the agonizing undercurrents of insecurity, grief, and despair. The lushly described setting in North Carolina’s Outer Banks echoes her interior landscape: bleak, desolate, and subtly off-kilter. The twisty narrative avoids problem-novel territory, instead engaging with and exploring the underlying issues surrounding trust, autonomy, teenage sexuality, and depression frankly and nonjudgmentally, with more emphasis on emotional ramifications than graphic details. Secondary characters (like the protagonists, apparently all default to white) are loving and mean well but are hobbled by their own flaws and mistakes. Some readers might find the big reveal a bit over-the-top, but with Mer’s final choice—both unexpected and oh-so-right—a final dollop of magical realism provides a sweetly hopeful conclusion.

Harrowing but cathartic. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-711-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes.

HERE'S TO US

Former boyfriends’ “big Broadway love story” gets a revival in this sequel to What If It’s Us (2018).

Two years after their flash romance, Ben Alejo and Arthur Seuss (both now in college) couldn’t have drifted further apart. But destiny intervenes when Arthur lands his “ultimate top-tier pie-in-the-sky dream job” interning at a queer off-Broadway theater for the summer. Their long-anticipated reunion comes with a small catch: Both boys are basically taken. Ben met Mario in his college creative writing class, and, while they aren’t boyfriends, the connection—and attraction—is definitely there. Arthur’s officially dating Mikey, whose sweetness and steadiness saved him from remaining a “Ben-addled mess.” Cue the confusion—and inevitable broken hearts—as Ben and Arthur contend with their pasts and presents while trying to figure out their futures. Who will end up with whom? Albertalli’s and Silvera’s voices blend seamlessly, balancing the complexities of the boys’ situations with heartfelt (and heartwarming) nostalgia. As in the previous book, the narrative alternates between Ben’s and Arthur’s perspectives with off-the-charts wit and chemistry. Lovable side characters have grown and matured, while new characters expand the world to create an even stronger sense of community. Loose ends are tied up believably with an epilogue. Arthur is Jewish; Ben and Mario are Puerto Rican, and Mikey is White.

Swoonworthy wish fulfillment that checks all the right boxes. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307163-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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