GETTING THE GIRL

A self-contained working-class lad falls for his brother’s ex-girlfriend, which in turn triggers a rift between the siblings. In this sequel to Fighting Rueben Wolfe (2001), Zusak’s taciturn yet surprisingly eloquent hero Cameron doesn’t feel like a winner, but instead has “to scavenge for moments of alrightness.” Overshadowed by his older brothers Steven and Ruben, Cameron, who has no friends except for the other members of the so-called “Wolfe pack,” longs for love and acceptance. He spends his nights wandering around alone, almost always winding up in front of Stephanie’s house, a girl who once called him a loser. The one thing that “whispered okayness” to Cameron was his words, which is what he calls his nascent writing. In contrast, Cameron’s handsome and charismatic brother Ruben, a fighter and a ladies’ man, lives strictly in the moment. Cameron likes and admires Ruben’s current flame, a pretty, classy girl named Octavia. Although not at all surprised when Ruben breaks it off with her, Cameron is simply amazed when Octavia shows up in front of Stephanie’s house and asks Cameron if he would rather “come and stand outside” her place. Concurrently gritty and lyrical with a gruesomely humorous set piece involving the funeral of a neighbor’s dog, Zusak explores the deep if inexpressible desire to create, as well as the intersection between family loyalty and romantic affection. Poignant yet unsentimental, his coming-of-age exploration will touch the heart. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-38949-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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