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KISSING IN AMERICA

Wise, inspiring, and ultimately uplifting—not to be missed.

Best friends leave New York City for the first time and take a transformative road trip to Los Angeles.

Sixteen-year-old Eva Roth's penchant for reading romance novels (118 at last count) is termed "your ultimate rebellion" by her mom, a women’s studies professor. Eva is a poet, and she used to write alongside her beloved father, but when he died in a plane crash two years earlier, she stopped writing. Rabb eloquently gets grief right in this compassionate, perceptive, and poignant story, deftly leavened with irreverent humor, of a girl in conflict with her mother. Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Nikki Giovanni, Marie Howe, and others are so beautifully integrated into the first-person narrative that the poetry comes alive. Eva's burgeoning, heart-stopping relationship with senior Will Freeman initially helps her begin to find a way out of grief, as does her smart, empathetic best friend, Annie Kim, with whom she can share the absurdity of it all. But Will unexpectedly moves to California, and with Annie's participation, Eva comes up with a truly creative road-trip plan—one in which America, land of endless possibilities, serves as a backdrop for unexpected love. And love is really what this remarkable story is all about.

Wise, inspiring, and ultimately uplifting—not to be missed. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-232237-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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