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Sensationally tragic.

A misunderstood thespian stops at nothing to obtain a lead role in this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

At Bosworth Academy, theater is a battlefield, and scholarship student and senior Rory King is sick of rotting in the trenches. She’s a loyal member of the Princely Players, her school’s esteemed theater troupe, but she’s been relegated to lowly ensemble parts for years. Now she’s ready to claim her spotlight. There’s just one problem: Pam Hanson, the iron-fisted director, repeatedly fails to see Rory’s potential. Luckily, Rory’s engineered a diabolical scheme to take what she’s earned, and she invites readers to witness it unfolding just as she planned. Like Shakespeare’s hunchbacked Richard III, Rory, who’s fat, is scorned for her body—but like him, she’s also clever, ruthless, and singularly focused. She has no qualms about exploiting anyone in pursuit of her goals, including her castmates, caring teacher Miss Keating, and even her closest friends. Through a narrative format that shifts between the first and third person, moves forward and backward in time, and incorporates prose, play scripts, and even a musical score, Rory’s numerous misdeeds are revealed: spying, forgery, blackmail, sexual manipulation, and more. Reimagining Richard III as a toxic theater kid rather than a crown-hungry noble is thought provoking. Her skulking and plotting make for quite the spectacle, propelling readers to the bitter, catastrophic end. Save for Miss Keating, who’s Black, all named characters are white.

Sensationally tragic. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781536204674

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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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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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

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