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TEN MILES ONE WAY

An intricate, unusual love story for readers attuned to compassion.

While Nest hangs onto life after driving into a tree, Q, her sometimes-boyfriend, makes a written record of one shared day so that people will know she was loved.

When Nest is in the manic phase of the bipolar disorder she inherited from her father, she takes long walks to calm the “Chimaera” within. Three years ago, when they were 17, Nest invited Q, aka Isaac Kew, to go along with her through the city streets, instructing him to remain silent. Listening to her rapid-fire ramblings on the first 10 miles of their journey was like walking “with a girl whose own mind was a fever.” Alternating with Q’s account, Nest’s stream of consciousness, liberally sprinkled with classic love poems, reveals her intelligence and a legitimate fear of insanity. She recognizes her own vulnerability as well, pointing out that Q, “tall, strong, and white,” can walk pretty much where and when he chooses (Nest’s own ethnicity is ambiguous). As Q records their journey, he occasionally pauses to reflect on what he’s writing as Nest faces “life, death, and the horizon line.” In his second novel, Downes (Fell of Dark, 2015) subtly plumbs the depths of mental illness within the broader context of relationship and self-awareness. Told mile by mile, the story reaches an allegorical climax even as it stops midway through a day that’s both harrowing and beautiful.

An intricate, unusual love story for readers attuned to compassion. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54499-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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