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Frustratingly long-winded and rambling.

Nandan is perpetually lost.

Confused about his sexuality, his social status, and how he feels about the other high school students he calls his friends, Nandan manipulates and maneuvers his way through social interactions, hanging out with people he doesn’t really like. Nandan hooks up with Dave, who “was actually kind of hot,” but “maybe folks didn’t see it because he was Asian.” He feels disgusted about it later and wonders if he only did it to try and impress the popular crowd. These teens include Pothan and Ken, who are both bullies and gaslighters as well as sexist. The book includes a character who feels like being gay would make him cool, blasé and sarcastic use of the term “microaggressions,” teenage alcohol abuse, many unhealthy relationships and friendships, and an entire conversation by boys about how to manipulate a girl into sleeping with you. It is reminiscent of how exhausting being a teen can be, as all the characters are so crippled with anxiety and overthinking that the story advances at a snail’s pace. Its strength lies in the normalization of negotiating the complex social structure of teenage friendships and relationships, but it is also reminiscent of watching a documentary or reality show about awful people that was largely, painfully unedited. Nandan is Indian American, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.

Frustratingly long-winded and rambling. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286581-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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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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