TRUE LETTERS FROM A FICTIONAL LIFE

Just the right touch of humor, mystery, drama, and romance should earn this a place on every teen bookshelf.

When the truth is a secret, even friends believe the fiction.

Vermont 17-year-old James Liddell is a cute, popular (enough) athlete, and so are his friends. He likes how people behave toward him when he is with his sort-of girlfriend, Theresa—but when he’s honest with himself, he has a crush on his friend Tim Hawken. James is only 100-percent honest in the letters he writes to friends and family but never sends. He locks them in a desk drawer and has written so many he’s lost count. Then he meets Topher and begins cautiously to come out. When he’s just started to crack the closet door, someone steals some of the secret letters and sends them to their intended recipients—and everything threatens to come crashing down, just as James has always feared it would. Can he juggle coming out, a new boyfriend, old friends, and the mystery of who stole his letters? Logan’s debut is a funny and realistic coming-out tale set firmly in the present in a small, upper-middle-class, mostly white Vermont town, where black friend Derek stands out. The rounded characters deal with betrayal and honesty and love and near tragedy in ways teen readers, gay or straight, will recognize. If there are an awful lot of “dudes” in the dialogue, that just adds to the verisimilitude.

Just the right touch of humor, mystery, drama, and romance should earn this a place on every teen bookshelf. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238025-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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