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CONSENT

A compassionate but clearsighted look at student-teacher liaisons, somewhat diminished by an over-the-top plot setup.

When Dane Rossi, a young English pianist substitute-teaching Bea’s music-appreciation class, hears Bea play, he insists she could have a career as a concert pianist and urges her to apply to his alma mater, Juilliard, even as their intense, mutual attraction complicates her choices.

Bea’s mother went to Juilliard and also dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, but she died giving birth to Bea, who’s sure her father and older brother hold her responsible. Entirely self-taught, Bea’s kept her dreams secret. Now, blossoming under Dane’s guidance, she accepts his offer to introduce her to his Juilliard mentor, a great pianist. But when her relationship with Dane takes a turn toward intimacy on their trip to New York, she’s both confused and thrilled. The story’s strongest when it focuses on this relationship, honoring its complexity and neither oversimplifying it nor demonizing either of them. While that’s deftly handled, other plot points strain credulity. Readers will have difficulty buying Bea’s near perfection as a classical pianist given that her only instruction has been “from books and online and stuff.” After all, a crucial element of classical musical training is feedback from teachers on student performance. While Bea’s family is underdeveloped, her deep guilt at having been born seems more than a tad overblown.

A compassionate but clearsighted look at student-teacher liaisons, somewhat diminished by an over-the-top plot setup. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6490-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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