A sinister gothic romance revamped with mixed results.

Jane Eyre teams up with Bertha Mason to defeat the real enemy—Mr. Rochester.

In this retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s novel centering queer Black characters, 19-year-old Jane has left Lowood School in Lancashire, England, for Thornfield Hall, where she’ll be a “right and proper governess” to Adèle Varens, the young light-brown-skinned ward of white Englishman Edward Rochester. Jane feels a sense of freedom in pursuing her new role, leaving behind employment under a cruel headmaster—though she misses the comfort and support of her lover, Helen. The story alternates between the first-person perspectives of Jane and Bertha (Rochester’s wife), a format that gives Bertha voice and agency denied her in the original iteration. Bertha is imprisoned in the upper floors of the house; Rochester only married her for access to her family’s wealth. His debts have mounted, and he previously pursued marriage with Adèle’s late Parisian mother, who had a fortune of her own. This book nails the atmosphere of the brooding historical setting in which “punishment and pain” seem “to lurk around every corner.” The love story between Jane and Bertha, which is also developed through their secret letters, is a refreshing addition. Bertha, who is from New Orleans, shares multiple flashback scenes, adding depth to her character. Unfortunately, readers may find the culminating twist a disappointment.

A sinister gothic romance revamped with mixed results. (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780062986269

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


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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