While not romantic, Wren and Tim’s relationship becomes another powerful iteration of the book’s message that “[l]ove is...

THE BOY I LOVE

Wren’s infatuation with handsome charmer Tim takes on an unexpected emotional depth after Tim reveals that he is gay.

Their friendship blossoms as she becomes a fiercely loyal defender of his secret, while he offers her emotional support during her family’s financial struggles. The novel’s premise initially feels like a traditional trope: Two best friends transfer to a new school where romance and varying degrees of social acceptance strain their friendship. But Wren’s voice transforms the potential teen dramafest into a nuanced reflection on gaining independence through the pursuit of individual interests and demonstration of concern for the well-being of others. Wren displays an uncanny ability to say just the right thing to comfort Tim during dark moments, a skill many readers will envy. And her very public loyalty to Tim is admirable. Yet Wren is far from perfect, occasionally privately revealing she still longs for a romance with Tim or feels jealous of his relationship with a football player, though she knows these feelings are unfair. Admissions like these ensure Wren is a dynamic character, not just a literary edifying device. Thoughtful parallels between discrimination based on race and sexual orientation are also skillfully interwoven.

While not romantic, Wren and Tim’s relationship becomes another powerful iteration of the book’s message that “[l]ove is love,” and all loves deserve respect .(Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8056-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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