LAST CHANCE DANCE

A charming and hopeful story about life post-heartbreak.

A senior tries to get over an unexpected breakup by participating in her high school’s end-of-school dance for unfulfilled crushes.

With only three weeks left before graduation, Leila Bean is shattered when Dev Rajan, her boyfriend since freshman year, suddenly dumps her despite their previous plans to keep dating in college. Bree, Leila’s best friend, encourages her to sign up for Baldwin High’s Last Chance Dance, which matches seniors with up to three former crushes they never dated—if the interest is reciprocated—so they can decide whom to ask to their final dance. Leila, a Black bisexual girl, is surprised when she’s set up with all three of her picks: super fit social media influencer Kai, charismatic activist Mason, and beautiful book-loving Eva. There’s also an unwelcome, algorithm-chosen wild-card match: her snarky lab partner and nemesis, Tre’. Leila agrees to give each of her matches a chance except for Tre’, who she initially refuses to believe is a serious contender—until she realizes he’s more than just a class clown. Wilson’s part breakup tale, part rom-com isn’t just about falling in and out of love; it’s also a story about Leila’s rediscovering herself in the face of loss, learning from her mistakes, and giving people a chance to redeem themselves. Set in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a prosperous, predominantly Black suburb of Washington, D.C., the story mostly centers Black characters; Dev is Indian American, and Mason is White.

A charming and hopeful story about life post-heartbreak. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52561-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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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