WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY

The topic of animal conservation almost overwhelms the emphasis on mental health, but Lily’s path is worth exploring.

Lily’s schizophrenic mother almost threw her off a roof when she was 7.

The Oregon senior’s only confidant, Sawyer, is a wealthy, closeted gay boy who knows of her 12-Year Plan to live a quiet, substance-free life until age 30 to help prevent the onset of mental illness. After Lily writes an article for her newspaper internship about an elephant calf rejected by her mother, the Kenyan zoo director, Dr. Addie Tinibu, enlists her help. The Florida circus that owns its father claims the elephant, and Addie and Lily reluctantly accompany the baby to help acclimatize her. The pachyderm becomes a celebrity when Lily’s articles are reprinted nationally. During an intense week, she falls in love with a boy who has his own issues and explores similarities between her childhood and the elephant’s. Others help in her noble cross-country attempt to find an elephant sanctuary, but these connections often seem forced. Lily’s knowledge of how schizophrenia affects different people will help readers realize that it is not a monolithic condition. Animal welfare issues are well-integrated, and scenes involving elephant care are realistic but repetitious. Many instances of animal and human abuse weigh the novel down, and a hopeful outcome is painfully slow in arriving. Lily and Sawyer are white.

The topic of animal conservation almost overwhelms the emphasis on mental health, but Lily’s path is worth exploring. (author’s note, resources) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-335-01236-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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

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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