This compelling, closely observed debut charts its appealing characters’ difficult journey with clarity and honesty.

Audrey’s grateful for the life her teen birth mother gave her with a loving adoptive mother; 17 years later, Audrey, confused and fearful of making the wrong choice, must deal with her own unplanned pregnancy.

Brown-skinned, mixed-race Audrey’s white birth mother, Amanda, chose Laura as her parent in a closed adoption. Laura’s partner, Adam (both are white), now lives with Laura and Audrey. Dreaming of a career in photography, Audrey knows she’s not working at her full potential. She has a loving, stable home; great friends diverse in both race and sexuality; and a wonderful musician boyfriend, Julian. Julian’s white, Jewish family is as fond of Audrey as hers is of Julian. Audrey’s pregnancy is a shock; they’d used birth control. They’re in love, determined to make the right choice, whatever that is. Their families accept their choice and will support it, once made. Audrey trusts Julian will be there for her; but a baby would reshape their lives, futures they’re still planning. Abortion is scary; adoption is hard. Audrey’s kept Amanda’s letter that expresses the hope that Laura can give Audrey the life Amanda cannot. When a new letter arrives from Amanda, Audrey doesn’t read it. Barrow’s precise, third-person, past-tense narration captures Audrey’s turmoil as time begins to run out; she’s immobilized by indecision and anxiety, at odds with friends, family, even Julian. She steadily resists cliché and tired tropes all the way to the novel’s deeply felt, unflinching conclusion.

This compelling, closely observed debut charts its appealing characters’ difficult journey with clarity and honesty. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249419-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017


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


A searing romance.

Two girls wounded by their past relationships grapple with the undeniable intensity of their feelings for one another in this novel based on the pop-star author’s popular song and music video.

Seventeen-year-old Coley, who is White and Japanese, braces for impact as a minivan hurtles toward her in a parking lot. The crash never comes, but in that moment, she and fierce Sonya, beautiful with her tan skin and dark hair and eyes, collide. Horrible circumstances brought Coley to small-town Oregon; after her mom’s suicide, she’s raw with grief and stuck living with the dad who abandoned her when she was 3. Wealthy, competitive dancer Sonya feels no less trapped. Afraid of rejection and loneliness, she buries her true self to appease her perfectionist mother and the demanding ex-boyfriend who refuses to let her go. Unspoken attraction pulls Coley and Sonya together, but the masks they wear to protect themselves from their pain create a barrier that may keep them apart. Set in the summer of 2006, the novel alternates Sonya’s public and private LiveJournal posts that reveal her side of the story with Coley’s first-person narration. Sharp, poetic prose heightens the emotional and romantic drama. References to early 2000s pop and alternative music in Sonya’s posts create a playlist that sheds more light on her feelings. Coley demonstrates satisfying character growth as she opens up to herself and others. Apart from Coley, most characters are presumed White.

A searing romance. (content note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781250817631

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023