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FIFTEENTH SUMMER

It’s just good writing, and good writing always works.

This sweet, realistic tale of a girl’s first love proves that young romance fans don’t need vampires, werewolves or other assorted immortals to enjoy a book about love in their age group.

Chelsea has mixed feelings about spending the family vacation in her family’s pretty little cottage near the shore of Lake Michigan. Granly—her grandmother—passed away the previous winter, and Chelsea misses her. She sets off to find a book in the nearby little town and meets Josh, who works at the bookstore. Dalton’s sensitive writing makes it clear that both teens experience immediate attraction to one another, but their natural insecurity in their first romance makes each doubt that the other feels the same. Chelsea looks to her older, more experienced sisters for advice, while Josh simply yields to temptation and plants a sudden kiss on Chelsea. With their intentions declared, Chelsea takes a job as a waitress next door to Josh’s bookstore, where the drama continues. The completely believable and likable characters, the small town and its often-quirky inhabitants, the waitressing job and, especially, the up-and-down relationship between Chelsea and Josh come across with such realism that readers will recognize these characters as actual people like themselves. Drawn with keen emotional insight, this lovely little novel comes as a warm breeze in the current storm of paranormal romantic fiction.

It’s just good writing, and good writing always works. (Romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7267-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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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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