Never less than riveting.

Blair Scott has the grit and athleticism to become an elite firefighter—and a secret that could end her career before it begins.

Blair, 19, spends summers in Montana with Aunt Cate. From volunteering at a fire camp, Blair understands the need to protect forest ecosystems and human communities in a warming climate. Competitive and driven, she’s developed the strength and stamina needed for a job some male firefighters doubt she can handle. (Their skepticism has merely strengthened her resolve.) Now Blair and Jason, her longtime BFF, are rookie firefighters. Their friendship’s platonic; both are attracted to girls—typically the same ones. Jason has reluctantly agreed to keep secret Blair’s Type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis that would have disqualified her from the program, and biomedical engineer Aunt Cate has adapted her medical devices. When the busy fire season turns deadly and a fire crew is lost, the rookies are allowed to train as smokejumpers. Blair manages her hidden condition responsibly—until a training mishap brings major challenges. Rejecting Aunt Cate’s and Jason’s pleas that she disclose her diabetes, Blair makes a serious miscalculation. Blair’s passion for firefighting and her willingness to endure its grueling, vividly described hazards while struggling to manage her condition enrich the narrative. She’s a mesmerizing tour guide to the extraordinary challenges of battling hellish heat and blinding smoke in forested wilderness. Firefighting principles are tucked between chapters. Main characters are cued as White.

Never less than riveting. (glossary, author's note, sources) (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32696-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022


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


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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