TO A DARKER SHORE

Rich worldbuilding and lovable characters make this trip to hell worthwhile.

A fat, autistic teen risks her life to save her kingdom and the boy she loves.

In Soladisa, young people are sacrificed to the monster Teras to protect the citizens from its wrath for another season. When shepherdess Alesta’s best friend, Kyrian, the presumed heir to the throne, is sacrificed, she longs for revenge. She sets off for the island of Orroccio, where Teras dwells, to kill the beast and end the sacrifices once and for all—a feat others have attempted in vain. There, Alesta is surprised to learn that Kyr lives, albeit in a new and monstrous form, and as the two travel deeper into the monster’s domain, they discover unexpected truths about their world. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the story offers a fresh take on monster tales, neatly demonstrating the ways monstrousness and humanity are two sides of the same coin. Equally fascinating is the fantastical world the characters occupy, which has clear parallels to our own world and where reality and the official truth do not always align. Alesta and Kyr, who present as autistic, are easy heroes to root for, well drawn and compelling in their matching stubbornness and authentic care for each other. Alesta's journey, from internalizing hateful comments about her body to accepting it as it is, is nuanced and affirming. Alesta and Kyr have tan skin; queer love stories play important roles in the narrative.

Rich worldbuilding and lovable characters make this trip to hell worthwhile. (content warnings) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9781645678403

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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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