These geeks will warm even the coldest, darkest hearts.

Self-proclaimed goth queen Jess, constantly moving among foster homes, has learned to embrace the label freak and keep everyone at arm’s length.

Her Instagram fans feel like her only real family—until a woman claiming to be her biological mom reaches out, wanting back into her life. But wards of the state face challenges in securing unsupervised contact with their bio parents, and Jess, who is White, can’t risk getting social services involved and jeopardizing this chance at closure. Enter Oscar, Mexican American cosplay geek extraordinaire. Admiring Jess’ makeup and design skills, he asks her to join his team in competing in a cosplay expo in New York City—where Jess’ bio mom now lives. Determined to reunite with her, Jess agrees despite her initial reservations about cosplay. As she gets more invested in the team, however, Jess must decide whether chasing the dream of the family she once had is worth more than her chosen family. Zrull, whose author bio indicates she was herself a foster kid, delves with remarkable grit and heart into many sensitive issues, including mental health and body positivity. First-person narrator Jess’ voice is a mix of jaded, too-cool-for-school snark and stirring vulnerability, and each supporting character feels like a fully realized, perfectly imperfect individual. Moments of teen angst and triumph are weathered realistically, and the ending provides a welcome sense of closure after the characters’ sometimes-harrowing emotional journeys.

These geeks will warm even the coldest, darkest hearts. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63583-078-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flux

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022


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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