Dark, compelling, and surprisingly hopeful.

Two teenagers drive from Texas to Mexico to find a murderer and clear their friend’s name.

High school senior Flaco is frustrated with his family and still mourning the death of his cousin, who joined the Army and was killed by the Taliban. Skipping school to help buddy Magaña buy a 1959 Chevy Impala convertible doesn’t seem like a big deal. Their friend Tiny joins them, and Flaco is excited when longtime crush Susi asks to tag along too—but things go horribly awry. During the transaction over the car, the boys are separated from Susi, a man ends up dead, and Susi is accused of murder. The Mexican American teens experience racism in the criminal justice and immigration systems when it becomes clear that no one—not the police or even her lawyer—will help Susi and when Tiny, who is undocumented, must disappear along with his entire family to avoid arrest and deportation. Flaco and Magaña assume the real killer is Anaconda, a known murderer and coyote. The two boys set out across the border on a desperate mission to kidnap Anaconda, bring him to justice in the United States, and free Susi from jail. A dangerous quest ensues that will keep pages turning. The teens are aided by strokes of luck that sometimes stretch credulity but make for fast-paced, heart-wrenching reading.

Dark, compelling, and surprisingly hopeful. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35425-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022


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


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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