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AMERICUS

This will change no minds, but its heart is in the right place. (Graphic fiction. 12 & up)

A well-intentioned study of book-banning in the heartland.

Americus, Okla., is just like any other small town in America: Its middle and high schools teem with bullies and airheads, and its library has a waiting list 38 patrons long for the newest book in the Apathea Ravenchilde series. In this cultural wasteland, young teens Neil and Danny are best friends and fellow Apathea fans. When Danny's mother discovers him reading that "unholy filth" and he tells her he's gay, she sends him packing to military school and begins a campaign to ban all eight books. It's the details that make this graphic novel work, not its plot. Lonely Neil loves his single mother, but he's as itchy and awkward as any young teen. Secondary characters in the community, from the supermarket manager who lives next door to city councilors to some cool girls at the high school, develop sweetly and credibly. But the primary combatants are sadly one-dimensional. Danny's mother is a Bible-thumping caricature, and Charlotte, the sympathetic YA librarian, is herself more a cool-librarian type than a fully fleshed human being. As a profile of a book challenge, it's not bad, though oversimplified. But as a full story, it is lacking. Artistically, too many of Hill's characters look alike, which further contributes to the story's problems, though the interstitial scenes of Apathea’s saga delight.

This will change no minds, but its heart is in the right place. (Graphic fiction. 12 & up) 

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-768-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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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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