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EPICALLY EARNEST

A breezy, queer teen romance that is Wilde-inspired but not Wilde-an in execution.

Eighteen-year-old New Yorker Janey is blindsided by the possibility of contact with her biological family while also trying to win over the girl of her dreams.

It’s the end of senior year for Janey and her wealthy best friend, Algie. For years, Janey has been totally smitten by Gwen, a cousin of Algie’s who will be visiting for spring break. Meanwhile, Algie is pursuing Janey’s wide-eyed cousin, Cecil. Janey’s life is complicated by her notoriety as former viral internet sensation “Bag Baby,” so called due to her adoptive father’s finding her abandoned in a Gucci handbag in a train station in Poughkeepsie. Janey was happy not knowing anything about her biological family until a DNA test—submitted without her consent by Algie, a violation that is treated relatively lightly—reveals an aunt and a cousin whom Janey is not sure she wants to meet. The story, inspired by The Importance of Being Earnest, is a lighthearted romance with just enough drama and some sincere exploration of familial and romantic relationships. However, Oscar Wilde fans should be aware that it only really offers the window dressing of the play that inspired it—names, a top hat, a baby left in a handbag—and not the farcical plot, witty dialogue, or social satire. Readers who can accept that will find this to be a fun, easy, and romantic read. All of the characters read as White.

A breezy, queer teen romance that is Wilde-inspired but not Wilde-an in execution. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-56613-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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