A contemporary queer coming-of-age story steeped in pivotal events.

A SCATTER OF LIGHT

During the summer before college, Aria discovers her sexuality.

It is 2013, and Aria West is in Woodacre, California, a small town in Marin County, staying with her widowed paternal grandmother, Joan, an artist who is White; Aria’s opera singer mom is a Chinese immigrant. This wasn’t the summer Aria had in mind: Her plans were derailed after a boy took topless photos of her at a party and posted them online. Instead of staying on Martha’s Vineyard with her best friends, she is now under the care of her grandma. On her first day in town, Aria meets Steph Nichols, her grandma’s gardener, a heavily tattooed, gender-nonconforming singer/songwriter who reads White. From the Dyke March to the Queer Music Festival in Golden Gate Park, Aria explores the Bay Area queer scene along with Steph; Steph’s girlfriend, Lisa; and their friend Mel. Over the course of the summer, Aria finds her attraction to Steph deepening, a mutual feeling complicated by Steph’s relationship with Lisa. In this stand-alone companion to Last Night at the Telegraph Club (2021), Lo updates readers on Lily and Kath’s love story through an email from Aria’s mom, who is related to Lily, and a news article on the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. The plot and setting are richly detailed, but readers will wish for deeper exploration of the characters’ emotional lives, which would have strengthened the romance and family drama.

A contemporary queer coming-of-age story steeped in pivotal events. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-55528-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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