Teens, heartache and acute illness: The tears will flow.

A classic, youthful lament—“Why is this happening to me…? It’s so unfair”—avoids the maudlin and banal in the very capable hands of Kantor (The Darlings in Love, 2012, etc.).

For rising juniors and lifelong friends Zoe and Olivia, the first shake-up—no more elite ballet company for them—was bad enough. But when leukemia strikes, a recalibration of the “worst thing that will ever happen” scale is required. Mirroring the harsh reality of modern-day cancer, hopes for Olivia rise and fall right along with blood counts, and a complete cure feels like it’s always just one procedure or experimental drug away. For Zoe, normal life goes on, with fundraising car washes, ditzy cheerleaders and a potential boyfriend distracting and complicating her days. How can she fall for Olivia’s crush? Should she tell her? Hit the party or the hospital? This high school drama goes well below the surface; faith is explored, and well-developed family members, friends and teachers play strong roles. These teens are not navigating life alone but are part of a supportive community. Readers just in it for the plot risk missing the poignant moments where Kantor’s strong, graceful writing captures the innocence and sophistication of youth and the hopes and the fears of the girls and their families.

Teens, heartache and acute illness: The tears will flow. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227920-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013


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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