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BEARMOUTH

This grim and immersive thriller delivers suspense in the dark.

Newt has been eking out a living as an unskilled laborer in the bleak Bearmouth coal mine since the age of 4.

Forced to work in appalling underground conditions in an alternate Britain for meager pay, Newt—also called “YouNuck” (eunuch) by others as a malicious nod to their perceived undefined gender—must split their earnings between essential purchases from the company store and wages sent to their family back home. Life in the mine is brutal, and each day seems to bring new injuries, assaults, or deaths. Newt is able to focus on the bright spots in the darkness: loving friendships, moments of joy, and caring fellow miners who treat Newt like family. Newt is encouraged to keep their head down and follow the rules so as to not upset the fine balance in the mines between exploited workers and those in power, but everything changes when a dangerous newcomer joins the team and begins asking provocative questions. When tragedy strikes, Newt begins to question their religious faith in the Mayker and yearns for change. Newt is taught their letters by Thomas, a fellow worker in the mines, and the story is told in Newt’s own words through phonetically written prose. Thomas has brown skin; all other characters seem to be White.

This grim and immersive thriller delivers suspense in the dark. (Dystopian thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-01586-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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

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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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