A tender, engaging narrative intended to inspire positivity in the face of adversity.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A small tabby cat with some special skills helps a reluctant young woman navigate challenging times in Ford’s YA novel.

Nineteen-year-old Wendy, who works as a web designer, has been recently losing her hearing. Doctors tell her that, eventually, the loss will be total, so she’s taking a class in sign language and practices lip reading to prepare for the future. The last thing she needs is to complicate her life by adopting a cat, but her parents insist that she take her recently deceased grandmother’s pet, which shares Wendy’s name.The humanWendy isn’t fond of felines; her parents raise and show champion purebred cats, which she feels has been their top priority throughout her life. That’s why they refuse to bring a “mongrel” cat into their home, where she might somehow compromise the award-winning Martha and Kiki. Wendy brings her to the local animal shelter, but they’re full up. Simon, a kindhearted shelter volunteer, suggests that she take care of the gentle little tabby until they have an opening. Soon, however, the new pet escapes from Wendy’s house and runs to the home of new neighbor Mrs. Matinka Budnick, where she evidently plans to stay; later, though, Wendy discovers the cat’s unique talents. The protagonist begins her narrative journey with a lot of emotional baggage, but Ford gives readers the opportunity to follow her as she embarks on some adventure and perhaps a bit of romance. She must start by learning compassion and building self-confidence, as spelled out in a note her grandmother wrote during her final days: “What will ruin your life is your attitude. You lose some things—but in life you will also discover some new things, wonderful things.” The plucky little tabby is the most endearing character in the book, and the charming and determined animal becomes Wendy’s fierce protector and loving guide. Overall, Ford’s uncomplicated prose and affirmative, directive messaging will be most appropriate for readers who are at the younger end of the YA range.

A tender, engaging narrative intended to inspire positivity in the face of adversity.

Pub Date: July 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-52-559299-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021


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


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Close Quickview