A riveting and meaningful coming-of-age story.


When 16-year-old Phoenix Lam is invited to attend a student-led protest, it’s mostly curiosity that compels her to go.

Even though Phoenix has lived in Hong Kong since her family moved back from the U.S. 6 years ago, she’s never felt like she truly belongs. The protesters’ outcry against an extradition bill that would intensify the Chinese government’s pressure on political activists sparks something within Phoenix, and she decides to join them and document the protests through photography. An accidental phone swap introduces her to 17-year-old Kai Zhang, a recent returnee to Hong Kong from Shanghai who is grieving his mother’s recent death. Kai expresses interest in attending protest organizing meetings with Phoenix but doesn’t reveal that he’s a police academy trainee and the son of a police inspector. Despite their differences—naïve, well-meaning Phoenix comes from a wealthy family, while Kai lives with bitter awareness of his poverty—attraction grows between them. The story is narrated by both Phoenix and Kai, and they take readers into the thick of the 2019 Hong Kong protests. Well-developed characterization saves their romance from falling into star-crossed-lovers cliché. Instead, the teens’ relationship highlights questions about class and national identity alongside overarching themes of freedom, duty, and accountability. The prose is lyrical and evocative, describing the characters’ emotional turmoil and the brutal clashes between protesters and police with equal deftness.

A riveting and meaningful coming-of-age story. (author’s note, further reading and viewing) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 20, 2023

ISBN: 9780316396820

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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