SPIN

Not to be missed.

Two African American teens who dislike each other find themselves working together to solve the murder of a mutual friend.

Kya Caine and Fatima “Fuse” Fallon were both in the orbit of Paris Secord, aka DJ ParSec. Kya and Paris were friends from their neighborhood, while Fuse’s skill with social media made her the ideal person to promote this music among #ParSecNation fans. On the night Paris is murdered, both girls happen on the scene within minutes of each other; her death is a blow, and their shock and pain run deep. When they are briefly kidnapped by #DarkNation, a group of violent, extreme fans, they put their differences behind them to find the killer. The young women come from different worlds: Kya, the daughter of a hardworking single parent, resents upper-middle-class Fuse. But the drive to find answers before #DarkNation or the killer strike again propels them. They agree on the likely culprit and know their best chance of proving their guilt will occur during the high-energy commingling of everyone touched by the rising star and her music in an upcoming memorial concert. This is genre fiction at its best: a taut mystery with rich characterization and a strong sense of place. Social realities, such as class and family dynamics, add depth. The depiction of the grassroots music scene that feeds hip-hop and keeps it cutting edge is seamlessly woven into the narrative.

Not to be missed. (Mystery. 12-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-21921-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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