MEET ME AT THE RIVER

With a deft hand, de Gramont easily convinces the most skeptical of readers that the depth of Tressa’s and her boyfriend Luke’s emotions can enable a few fleeting, and frustratingly incomplete, moments of connection for them during the year following his tragic death.

One of this riveting novel’s most astonishing qualities is that it features a spectral character but avoids the clichés of many modern paranormal romances; it is instead a largely realistic tale of grief and healing. Rather than offering impossible hopes for a continued post-death romance, the imperfections of Tressa and Luke’s phantom connection—they can neither speak about the present nor feel each other’s touches—is a continual painful reminder of all that they have lost. And while Luke’s visits are a testament to their profound love, they are also an agonizingly slow goodbye and a hesitant step toward moving through their shared grief. De Gramont torments readers with flashbacks similar to Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road (2008), in which the knowledge that a character’s death is inevitable heightens, rather than assuages, readers’ dread as Luke’s final doomed moments are slowly revealed. The novel should come with a disclaimer that readers who are shy about public sobbing should avoid cracking this one open on public transportation, in waiting rooms or during classroom silent sustained reading times.

A must-read . (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4169-8014-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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Exactly what the title promises.

BETTER THAN THE MOVIES

A grieving teen’s devotion to romance films might ruin her chances at actual romance.

Liz Buxbaum has always adored rom-coms, not least for helping her still feel close to her screenwriter mother, who died when she was little. Liz hopes that her senior year might turn into a real-life romantic fantasy, as an old crush has moved back to town, cuter and nicer than ever. Surely she can get Michael to ask her to prom. If only Wes, the annoying boy next door, would help her with her scheming! This charming, fluffy concoction manages to pack into one goofy plot every conceivable trope, from fake dating to the makeover to the big misunderstanding. Creative, quirky, daydreaming Liz is just shy of an annoying stereotype, saved by a dry wit and unresolved grief and anger. Wes makes for a delightful bad boy with a good heart, and supporting characters—including a sassy best friend, a perfect popular rival, even a (not really) evil stepmother—all get the opportunity to transcend their roles. The only villain here is Liz’s lovelorn imagination, provoking her into foolish lies that cause actual hurt feelings; but she is sufficiently self-aware to make amends just in time for the most important trope of all: a blissfully happy ending. All characters seem to be White by default.

Exactly what the title promises. (Romance. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6762-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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