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GARDEN OF THE CURSED

From the Garden of the Cursed series , Vol. 1

Delightfully intriguing.

A resourceful cursebreaker sets out to investigate a curse placed on an old friend and encounters clues to her mother’s disappearance.

In the city of Caraza, the Five Families hold the power and the spellcrafting knowledge that turns the wheels of their gilded society. Seventeen-year-old Marlow Briggs used to be in the midst of it all in the exclusive Evergarden neighborhood, but since her mother’s mysterious disappearance the year before, she has turned her skills in cursebreaking into a job in order to survive. When Adrius, an old estranged friend and the heir and scion of the Falcrest family, seeks Marlow’s help to break the curse he is under—a Compulsion curse from a spell book that was supposedly destroyed centuries ago—she finds herself back in high society, pretending to be in a romantic relationship with Adrius in order to carry out her investigation from within. Marlow eventually learns that her mother’s disappearance, Adrius’ curse, and the very foundation of magic in their world are connected—with unexpected consequences. This first entry in a duology sees its main character navigate the deadly confluence of magic and power. The story blends creative worldbuilding elements, such as its magic system based on spellcards, with beloved tropes, like the charming fake dating between Adrius and Marlow, within a dystopian world of haves and have-nots. A range of interesting secondary characters are a bonus. Main characters are assumed White.

Delightfully intriguing. (Fantasy mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9781250846662

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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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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