VIOLET GHOSTS

A haunting and hopeful story of self-discovery.

Fifteen-year-old Dani knows a few things for sure: He is a transgender boy, ghosts are real, and most victims are murdered by someone they know.

After escaping Dani’s abusive father, he and his mother move to Michigan. His only friend is Sarah, an angry teenage ghost who hates men and keeps the details of her murder a closely guarded secret. When they meet Patricia, another ghost, lying dazed in the woods, they decide they need to find a way to help the ghosts of murdered women. Meanwhile, Dani reluctantly begins to befriend taciturn classmate Seiji, who is also haunted by ghosts both real and metaphorical. Ghosts are not the scary things in this story, however. The characters, the living ones as well as the ghosts, explicitly and honestly deal with the traumas of physical and sexual abuse, rape, violence, abandonment, suicide, and murder. Some forgive, some hide, and some rage while others feel inexplicably drawn to return again and again to their abusers. The author evokes the setting of the late 1990s and early 2000s with plenty of pop-culture references, but the characters’ knowledge and attitudes about transgender issues are often optimistically—but not impossibly—contemporary. Dani, Patricia, and other major characters seem to be White; Sarah has pale brown skin and black hair, and Seiji is White and Japanese.

A haunting and hopeful story of self-discovery. (Paranormal. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0463-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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