Unflinching, bloodstained magic.

In this dark fantasy woven together from reimagined fairy tales, a werebear princess and her cruel twin brother vie for inheritance of their father’s crown.

Once upon a time, a story unfolds after a farmer lies to a king, saying that his daughter can spin grass into gold. In this kingdom, the first-born—always a boy—inherits. But when the common-born queen gives birth to twins, first a werebear girl, then a human boy, no one can agree who has the right of succession. Princess Ursula believes in her claim to the throne: Under her benevolent rule, she’d overturn unjust laws that oppress other werefolk. Full of contempt for his sister, Albrecht, the vicious, vain prince, plots his own ascent, no matter the cost. With precise, and poetic prose, Brockenbrough twists and intertwines familiar tales—“Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “Goldilocks,” among others—to craft an intricate, cohesive narrative framed as a story within a story. Ursula and Albrecht are White; the ensemble cast of primary characters includes two brown-skinned women, one of whom has a fraught emotional relationship with the princess. Injustice, misinformation, and consent are significant themes. While at times the depictions of violence (including sexual assault) are visceral and brutal, this stand-alone journey into grim woodlands arrives at a subversive resolution more satisfying than a traditional happily-ever-after.

Unflinching, bloodstained magic. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-67387-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021


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


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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