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SURVIVOR

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #20

A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic.

A brave young-adult novel about a devastating family secret.

Sixteen-year-old Tarah Carson’s high school life in small-town Bluford is going well: She’s dating a football star, she has close girlfriends, and one of her favorite teachers has suggested that her skills with children could point to an education career in her future. She also has a funny, smart gaggle of cousins keep her on her toes. But an impending family reunion in honor of a beloved aunt triggers Tarah’s deep-seated traumatic memories, because her Uncle Rudy, who sexually abused her as a child, will be there. Tarah’s afraid that Uncle Rudy might pose a threat to the youngest members of the family, and she weighs the consequences of telling her family and her boyfriend about his terrible past transgressions. As she does so, she finds herself facing, and questioning, her own coping mechanisms. Langan, in this installment of his ongoing series set in fictional Bluford, offers unflinchingly honest plot situations to engage and educate readers. It would be easy to fall into overdramatic or sentimental cliché with this novel’s subject matter, but Langan deftly avoids such traps, instead opting for natural dialogue and just enough specific detail to render his story universally relatable. The author’s portrayal of his teenage female protagonist’s internal struggles is admirable, although some readers may wish that the book elaborated more upon the emotional climax of the story, and its subsequent fallout. Some younger readers may find this book’s subject a bit too troubling, but older teens will likely be able to tolerate its frank discussion of familial taboos.

A well-paced, realistic YA story that looks at a difficult topic. 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1591943044

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

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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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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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