BETTING ON YOU

Disappointing.

Unlikely friends fight their growing feelings for each other while placing bets on other people’s love lives.

Bailey met Charlie while flying from Alaska, where she grew up, to Nebraska, where she and her mom would be living after her parents’ divorce. Although they briefly bonded over their parents’ divorces, Charlie’s cynicism grated on the rule-following Bailey, and she was thankful to part ways with him. Three years later, to Bailey’s dismay, she runs into Charlie when they both land jobs at Planet Funnn, a mega-hotel that’s “like a giant landlocked cruise ship.” This time around, Bailey and Charlie begin to get along better. To entertain themselves during their long shifts, they observe and make bets about the hotel guests. But they risk taking it too far when they bet on whether their co-worker Theo will end up with Nekesa, Bailey’s best friend, who’s in “a perfect relationship with the perfect guy.” The book explores Bailey’s conflicted feelings toward her mom’s new relationship with Scott (who doesn’t “do anything wrong” but whose presence changes “the vibe” at home), but it does so in a way that diminishes a primary source of conflict. Bailey's and Charlie’s feelings become even more complicated when Charlie helps Bailey with a fake-dating scheme intended to scare Scott off. Some of the banter between the leads, who are coded white, feels more aggressive than playful, detracting from their intimacy, and the circuitous plot may fail to sustain readers’ interest.

Disappointing. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781665921237

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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

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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