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NO GOING BACK

The excellent pacing and heart-wrenching exploration of redemption will sweep readers up.

Antonio Echeverría Sullivan is just out of juvie, and he really does want to follow all the rules—but will his past let him?

Antonio wants to tell you his story, and he hopes you’ll believe him. He’s a white and Uruguayan teen boy who’s spent the last year and a half at the Zephyr Woods Youth Detention Center in Washington state’s Puget Sound area, taking the fall for a crime he wasn’t primarily responsible for. The conditions of his early release are clear, among them checking in with his parole officer, avoiding all contact with his father, staying sober, attending high school, and following a curfew. Desperate to make amends with his mother and his best friend, Maya, Antonio immediately sets off on a 72-hour journey, trying to outrun his past—and breaking all the rules, which might land him back at the detention center and permanently ruin all the relationships he’s trying to save. This is a taut coming-of-age story told in a combination of prose, with chapter headers that mark the day and time, and poems that flash back to earlier events. Antonio’s journey of self-realization features powerful inner dialogue that allows readers to understand the impulses that lead to his poor choices, and the novel brutally reflects the consequences and trials of addiction, chronic illness, and domestic violence on a family.

The excellent pacing and heart-wrenching exploration of redemption will sweep readers up. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780316407502

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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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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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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