WAYWARD SON

From the Simon Snow series , Vol. 2

A marvelously spellbinding tale with all the wit and heart that fans have come to expect.

Simon Snow, his boyfriend, Baz, and their friend Penny road trip through America in this sequel to Carry On (2015).

After an eventful final year at the Watford School of Magicks, Simon has lost his magic powers but gained a tail and giant red dragon wings. He’s been in a funk and even considers breaking up with Baz. Penny decides a change of scenery might help, and the British trio plan a visit to their friend Agatha in San Diego. The United States is nothing like they expected, and after a comical trip to a Renaissance Faire leads to a magical battle, they’re on the run. After learning that Agatha’s in trouble at a mysteriously sinister wellness retreat, they set out to find her with the help of Shepard, a nonmagical American. Their journey brings encounters with a were-skunk in Nebraska, a dragon in the Rocky Mountains, a water spirit in the Hoover Dam, and vampires in Vegas (obviously). Alternating perspectives and clever dialogue keep the fast-paced action moving despite the muddled plot. While running around saving the day takes the forefront, Simon and Baz’s complex relationship is never fully explored—but thankfully the ending leaves the door open for more magical adventures. Most characters are white; Penny is biracial (Indian and white). Shepard, who is black, is given a couple of flippant race-related lines that read as tone deaf. 

A marvelously spellbinding tale with all the wit and heart that fans have come to expect. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14607-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

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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