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SUN KEEP RISING

An authentic portrayal of the cycle of poverty.

A Black teen mom tries to make the best decisions for her baby.

Living in the Memphis projects, B’onca’s family is accustomed to babies arriving; people going to college is less common. Her mama had her sister at 15, and her sister had her daughter at 16, but after her best friend, Savannah, gets into a top college, everyone expects B’onca to follow in her footsteps. When B’onca gets pregnant at 16, she doesn’t feel like she has much of a choice, however, and she gives birth soon after her 17th birthday even though her 19-year-old boyfriend proclaims he is too young to be a father. In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, B’onca’s story feels positioned to act as a valuable mirror for young single moms doing their best and a window for other readers, showing them the realities of life with limited choices, insufficient resources, and myriad systemic obstacles. Although B’onca graduates high school and gets accepted to three universities, barriers to her success—eviction, access to day care, and more—keep arising. When her daughter Mia’s father is killed and his parents threaten to seek custody, B’onca has to decide whether making money through illegal means is the best way to provide for her daughter. B’onca is a well-written character, and her story will resonate with anyone who feels trapped despite their best efforts.

An authentic portrayal of the cycle of poverty. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-30919-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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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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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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