DON'T TOUCH

An insightful look at anxiety disorders and letting go of fear.

A teen girl fights a debilitating anxiety disorder that threatens to destroy her dreams of becoming an actor.

Junior Cadence “Caddie” Finn is a new student at Birmingham Arts Academy, where she reconnects with her childhood friend, Mandy Bower. Caddie can’t let Mandy or any of her friends know about her phobia: Touching or being touched will cause bad things to happen. Caddie’s parents have separated, and she has convinced herself that they won’t divorce if she can just avoid human touch. At school, she finds herself falling for Peter, and the two are cast as Hamlet and Ophelia. At home, her younger brother Jordan channels his grief over their father’s departure into anger, while their mom tries to move on with her life. Caddie remains determined to hide her condition from everyone and throws herself into preparing to play Shakespeare’s suicidal heroine. Even as she realizes how irrational her fears are, she continues to allow them to control her. Caddie narrates in the present tense, immersing readers in her claustrophobic anxieties. Her story effectively highlights how anxiety disorders and the stigma of mental illness affect teens, and the author offers advice and resources for help in her author’s note.

An insightful look at anxiety disorders and letting go of fear. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-222093-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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

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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