THE KINDER POISON

A funny, rewarding story for fans of optimistic tales with a bite.

A poor, unempowered stable girl–turned–human sacrifice spins her story.

Zahru and her best friend, Hen, sneak into a royal party and, by the end, Zahru has been marked as the human sacrifice in the first Crossing in centuries. The ailing ruler of the Orkena kingdom calls for this brutal tradition, which will see his three heirs racing across the desert, the victorious one being the first to reach the end and kill the allegedly chosen-by-gods sacrifice. As a lowly Whisperer able to communicate with animals, living in a land where the rulers are the ones with the rarest magic, Zahru knows more than anyone what having power truly means. As she is traded among the three heirs traversing the desert, she needs to use all her skills to avoid being sacrificed in the end. Zahru’s unexpectedly humorous inner voice, the rich worldbuilding full of political intrigue, a slow-burning romance, and a fantastic set of well-developed characters (both friends and foes) mark this exciting and refreshing tale of power and accountability. Against a backdrop of danger, betrayal and challenges, Zahru opts for kindness and hope every time she faces a life-or-death choice, with thought-provoking results. Zahru has fair skin; secondary characters (including her love interest) have brown skin. This diverse world includes queer characters.

A funny, rewarding story for fans of optimistic tales with a bite. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3521-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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

Close Quickview