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Informative historical fiction written in a quaint, entertaining style.

Sixteen-year-old Klara must survive numerous obstacles and convince her traditional family to let her go to America.

In 1953, Klara lives on a dairy farm and is the oldest sibling in a very large family. She’s never been off her Dutch island in the North Sea; her abusive, highly religious father fears mainland influences. Her parents insist she must stay put and marry rich farmer’s son Luuc. Then a deadly hurricane causes flooding, changing everything. Thanks to a daring rescue by two fishermen, Klara and her family are evacuated, but their farm is destroyed. When Klara falls in love with Machiel, one of the fishermen, and wants to marry him instead, Father won’t hear of it. With the floodwaters receding and cleanup efforts commencing, Klara must decide whom—or even if—she’ll marry. If she doesn’t choose Luuc, the whole island will ostracize her for bringing shame to her family and not abiding by tradition. But Luuc turns out to be a violent misogynist who will make Klara’s life miserable: She must find a way to save herself, even if it means leaving everything behind. The backdrop of real historical events lends interest to this tale. The relative simplicity of the language and writing style make the difficult subject matter, including patriarchy, religion, misogyny, physical and sexual assault, stillbirth, suicidal thoughts, and mass death, accessible to reluctant readers.

Informative historical fiction written in a quaint, entertaining style. (floor plans, map, author’s note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781553806745

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Ronsdale Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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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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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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