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JACKPOT

Stone delivers a thoughtful and polished novel about class, privilege, and relative poverty.

Seventeen-year-old Rico’s family is living paycheck to paycheck and way beyond their means, even with Rico’s practically full-time job and her mother’s long hours.

When a customer purchases the winning ticket at the Gas ’n’ Go where she works but doesn’t claim it, Rico begins searching for the elderly woman she believes to be the winner. She enlists the help of Zan, the superrich heir of Macklin Enterprises in their hometown of Norcross, Georgia. Rico tentatively begins to hope in the future as her feelings for the privileged and complex Zan and her camaraderie with new friends finally start balancing out her family’s struggles. Filled with rich character development, whip-smart dialogue, and a layered exploration of financial precariousness, Stone (Odd One Out, 2018, etc.) touches on rising health care costs, the effect of illness in the family, interracial dating, and biracial identity. Intermittent passages from the perspectives of inanimate objects—including the winning ticket—around the characters add humor, and the short chapters inject the narrative with suspense. Rico is white, Latinx, and black. Zan is Latinx and white, and they live in a predominantly white neighborhood. Readers will have to suspend disbelief at the book’s conclusion, but this romantic coming-of-age novel will have them hoping for their own lucky ending.

Stone delivers a thoughtful and polished novel about class, privilege, and relative poverty. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2962-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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