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EVERYONE HATES KELSIE MILLER

With its focus on personal growth, this is a sweet romance with substance.

A road trip with her rival becomes a journey of self-discovery for Kelsie Miller.

Kelsie hasn’t heard from her best friend, Brianna Hoffman, for 30 days, not since Brianna left upstate New York and moved to Seattle to live with her mom. Brianna has been posting on social media, so Kelsie knows she’s OK but not what went wrong with their friendship. When Kelsie literally crashes into Eric Mulvaney Ortiz, quarterback of their elite private school’s football team and her rival for valedictorian, at a party, they start chatting. They realize that Brianna and Jessica Lovelace, the girlfriend who ghosted him, are both going to be at the University of Pennsylvania that weekend, and they come up with a plan to road trip there to win them back. Their time together leads to revelations for Kelsie about misconceptions she’s held about Eric, her friendship with Brianna, and herself—including the fact that she is demisexual. Kelsie’s realization that she has to address her own issues before she can fix her relationships with other people evolves naturally, and her budding romance with Eric is believable and sweet. Eric and Kelsie also know what it’s like to be different in their predominantly White town: Kelsie is a transracial adoptee from Korea, while Dominican and Irish American Eric has two dads and was born to a surrogate mom. They bond over an exploration of family and their origins.

With its focus on personal growth, this is a sweet romance with substance. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66590-697-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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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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

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