A heartbreaking testament to saving oneself.

A Quebecois teen’s dream of attending college means leaving behind the person she loves most.

Everything was different before the accident. Before her mom was injured in a serious car crash, Élise had support, love, and hope for the future. But now her mom is taking too many painkillers and sleeping all the time. Poverty and hunger have become constant battles for Élise, who dreams of going off to college in the city with her best friend, Lily, even though her mom has made it clear she sees this as abandoning her for a new life. Everything becomes even more chaotic when her mother invites abusive drug dealer Richard, whom Élise secretly calls Stranger Danger, into their home. Stranger Danger becomes a persistent threat as Élise tries to extricate herself from the tangled web of lies and betrayal her mother has built around them. Graphic violence and abuse pervade the narrative, allowing readers to experience Élise’s fear as their own. The author’s note provides a necessary warning about the graphic nature of the story, as well as reassuring advice for readers who may be experiencing something similar. This novel provides the vital perspective of a young person who’s watching a loved one struggle with addiction. Élise is a powerhouse of a character who refuses to compromise, even when all odds are stacked against her. Main characters read white.

A heartbreaking testament to saving oneself. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2024

ISBN: 9781459417304

Page Count: 112

Publisher: James Lorimer

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


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


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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