PRITTY

Queer Black boy joy at its juiciest.

The dangers of love letters, honest feelings, and trying to do right by your community are on full, gay display in this duology opener.

Bookish high school junior and diehard romantic Joseph “Jay” Dupresh is used to feeling invisible, but a number of boys around the K-Town neighborhood of Savannah are showing interest lately, including sweet but rough-around-the-edges Leroy. While Jay focuses on writing love letters on commission as his growing side hustle (and some just for himself), Leroy’s family affiliation with the Black Diamonds puts both boys at risk, forcing them to hit pause right when things start to heat up. Despite their reputation and even Jay’s assumptions, the BDs are primarily a grassroots cooperative that happens to be made up of gangsters looking to protect and take ownership of their community. While Jay narrates his chapters with vulnerability and a delicate touch, Leroy provides contrast in both language and imagery from the peripheries of gang life. Together, they paint a rich, dynamic image of Black queer boyhood in a vividly depicted Southern community. The teens’ will-they-won’t-they romance is accompanied by the presence of a healthy number of other handsome queer boys and the life-threatening intrigue of a community violently turned against itself before discovering the real enemy. These storylines make for a compelling debut that impressively balances the sweet and the suspenseful.

Queer Black boy joy at its juiciest. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780063264922

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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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