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A DISASTER IN THREE ACTS

A rom-com that deftly hits many emotional beats.

An aspiring documentarian finds her new subject in her estranged ex–best friend.

Eighteen-year-old high school senior Saine Sinclair hopes to secure a coveted spot in a documentary pilot program at Temple University. To complete her application, she’ll need to submit a short documentary. When her original subject, a woman competing in the Vice and Virtual video game competition, drops out and the deadline looms, Saine turns in desperation to another competitor, Holden Michaels. Not only is Holden her childhood best friend, but he’s also the ex-boyfriend of her current BFF, Corrine Baker. Saine has done her best to avoid Holden since an awkward spin-the-bottle incident in sixth grade, but now she’ll be filming his every move. The twosome’s journey plays with rom-com tropes as Rodkey explores the messiness of feelings—including growing pains and miscommunication—through flawed characters who don’t always take the easy road. Saine, who is single-minded about filmmaking and not above manipulation if it’ll make for a better movie, has to reckon with the consequences of her actions. Some plot points are clearly foreshadowed, but with a well-developed secondary cast and lots of places for the protagonists to go, the fast-paced story maintains readers’ interest. Main characters are White; there is some diversity in race and sexual orientation in the supporting cast.

A rom-com that deftly hits many emotional beats. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-299449-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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