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The story of a teen’s sexual coming of age, twinned with her struggles with anorexia and depression, is distinguished from so many of its ilk by an exceptionally fine and precise prose style. Steph is 17, prey to all the usual doubts and insecurities of that age, but her situational angst is compounded by the difficulties attendant upon having a manic-depressive mother. On the days when her artist mother is up, it’s “like coming into a room with party lights on where you had extended a hand forward, frightened, expecting to fall into pitch darkness,” but in Steph’s household, the yawning blackness seems to be much closer to the norm. Absent any real emotional security at home (her father is loving but ineffectual), when Steph begins a romance with the almost frighteningly intellectual Denny, she finds herself becoming more and more unhinged and alone. There is no hint of the cautionary in the deliberate examination of Steph’s first sexual experiences—with the possible exception of an almost hilarious scene where she blurts out her fears of an impossible pregnancy to her grandfatherly history teacher—just a celebration of erotic awakening. This celebration, however, is followed almost immediately by a corresponding awareness of a growing emotional void as her relationship with Denny becomes increasingly joyless. The present-tense narration puts the reader almost claustrophobically into Steph’s increasingly uncomfortable head; its tendency to refer to her much more as “the girl” than by name emphasizes her growing sense of alienation. Steph’s tentative steps back to health are charted as deliberately as her decline. If some subplots—notably a most peculiar one involving Denny’s unfaithful, alcoholic father—do not add to the narrative as a whole, neither do they materially detract. As noted, the story itself is not particularly new—but Rosenberg’s (We Wanted You, 2002, etc.) of telling it is beautifully, hauntingly effective. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-8126-4915-X

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Cricket

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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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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