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SHE GETS THE GIRL

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality.

Many begin college with hopes of personal reinvention, and Alex Blackwood and Molly Parker are no exception.

Apparently opposite in every way, both girls nevertheless arrive for their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with the same goal in mind: to fundamentally change the way others perceive them and get their dream girls. Easy-peasy. Molly, whose mom is a transracial adoptee from Korea and whose father is assumed White, was socially anxious in high school. She worries that her close friendship with her mother holds her back. Willowy, blond Alex, who is implied White, has never once found herself at a loss in a social situation, and yet her fairy-tale story of adolescent beauty and wit is tempered by having a single mom whose struggles with alcohol abuse meant shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. Utilizing tried and true tropes, married couple Lippincott and Derrick cut right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the mysteries of romance. Queerness itself is never the motivator of the drama, and gratifyingly, both girls find in one another the means to explore and unpack complexities of life unrelated to their sexualities. Nothing is made simplistic—not Alex’s relationship to self-expression and conventional beauty standards, nor Molly’s experiences of culture and community in a world that has expectations of her based on her racial identity.

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9379-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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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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