LEGACY OF THE CLOCKWORK KEY

Mediocre.

A young woman is drawn into a secret society of inventors in this derivative debut.

Meg Whitlock, a merchant’s daughter, is forced to take a job as a housemaid when her parents are killed in a fire. The only thing she has left of them is a disguised clockwork key. Through a series of tediously convenient coincidences, she discovers that her family were all members of the Secret Order of Modern Amusmentists, an organization that created clockwork creatures for their own pleasure. The key is the only object that will allow Meg to finish the job her parents started: destroying a time machine built by Lord Rathford, an Amusmentist gone rogue. With the help of handsome stable boy Will and sympathetic Amusmentists Oliver and Lucinda, Meg uses the key to activate a series of automatons that each hold clues to the location of the time machine. Rathford’s other opponents have all turned up dead, but even the suspense of Meg’s potential demise is not enough to overcome lines like “If I had died in that moment, I wouldn’t have noticed, because heaven couldn’t have been any more wonderful than the feeling in my heart.” True aficionados of steampunk will find this simplistic tale far too tame for their tastes, but readers new to the subgenre may exit the pages with a basic understanding of the convention’s quasi-Victorian world in spite of the limp linear plot, clichéd prose and stock characterizations.

Mediocre. (Steampunk. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4026-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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