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THE LANGUAGE OF STARS

A tale of self-discovery well suited for art-inclined readers who feel themselves on the fringe.

An act of vandalism revitalizes a small town.

Sarah Wheeler, the novel’s white narrator, has hit a fork in the road. Though at heart from the nerdy, lit- and drama-loving “Untouchables,” she’s now dating Fry, the hottest surfer dude at Whale Point High. When Fry throws a kegger in a cherished local landmark, Sarah joins him, against her better judgment—and the seaside cottage, former retreat of famed poet Rufus Baylor, ends up in flames. The drunken escapade lands Sarah and most of the partiers in court, sentenced to restoring the trashed cottage and taking a summer writing class taught by none other than the mythic and octogenarian Baylor. Baylor’s return to Whale Point injects new life into the sleepy community, prompting Sarah’s single mother and her largely absent “biological accident” father to re-examine their relationships with their daughter. At the same time, with Baylor’s attention and poetic inspiration, Sarah begins to look more closely at herself. While the circumstances leading to such communal introspection may be a bit far-fetched, Hawes excels in crafting rounded characters with varied home situations teens can relate to, and poems infused throughout the narrative offer poetic points of attachment as well as examples of different writing techniques (group- and free-writing, donning blindfolds, etc.) budding writers might attempt.

A tale of self-discovery well suited for art-inclined readers who feel themselves on the fringe. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6241-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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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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