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A compelling narrative about the power of friendship, faith, self-acceptance, and forgiveness.

Esther Ainsworth’s family decides to run away from the problems they blame her for by uprooting themselves from Ohio to the New Mexico desert.

Sixteen-year-old math-obsessed Esther can’t quite forget the life she was forced to leave behind for a new one in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, especially since her little sister, Hannah, now hates her. Esther forms a friendship with Color, a red-haired, brown-skinned girl who cleans houses (including Esther’s) part time. Color introduces her to “Heaven,” a now-closed former Blockbuster franchise where she houses all the discarded items she’s liberated from places she’s cleaned. There, Esther forges more new friendships—with Moss, Color’s brother; Jesús, a Latinx gay boy; and Beth, the science-shirt–wearing lesbian who attends her church. Esther reveals that she had a baby with her South Asian boyfriend, Amit, and was forced by her family to give her up for adoption. Everything is complicated by the fact that Esther’s own father isn’t in the picture and she is not close to her stepfather (Esther and her family are white). While the healing of Esther and Hannah’s broken relationship feels a bit too easily earned, Crane (The Upside of Falling Down, 2018, etc.) has created an organic and dynamic friendship group. Esther’s first-person narration, including her framing of existential questions as “Complex Math Problems,” is honest and endearing.

A compelling narrative about the power of friendship, faith, self-acceptance, and forgiveness. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0395-1

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Skyscape

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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From the Powerless Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes.

The Plague has left a population divided between Elites and Ordinaries—those who have powers and those who don’t; now, an Ordinary teen fights for her life.

Paedyn Gray witnessed the king kill her father five years ago, and she’s been thieving and sleeping rough ever since, all while faking Psychic abilities. When she inadvertently saves the life of Prince Kai, she becomes embroiled in the Purging Trials, a competition to commemorate the sickness that killed most of the kingdom’s Ordinaries. Kai’s duties as the future Enforcer include eradicating any remaining Ordinaries, and these Trials are his chance to prove that he’s internalized his brutal training. But Kai can’t help but find Pae’s blue eyes, silver hair, and unabashed attitude enchanting. She likewise struggles to resist his stormy gray eyes, dark hair, and rakish behavior, even as they’re pitted against each other in the Trials and by the king himself. Scenes and concepts that are strongly reminiscent of the Hunger Games fall flat: They aren’t bolstered by the original’s heart or worldbuilding logic that would have justified a few extreme story elements. Illogical leaps and inconsistent characterizations abound, with lighthearted romantic interludes juxtaposed against genocide, child abuse, and sadism. These elements, which are not sufficiently addressed, combined with the use of ableist language, cannot be erased by any amount of romantic banter. Main characters are cued white; the supporting cast has some brown-skinned characters.

A lackluster and sometimes disturbing mishmash of overused tropes. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9798987380406

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

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