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ANOTHER FIRST CHANCE

An emotionally intense exploration of grief combined with creative speculation about the nature of friendship.

A decision borne of frustration lands a grief-stricken young man in a questionable research trial about friendship.

Dylan, River’s best friend (and maybe more), died while texting and driving, leading their town to put up an awful billboard that seemingly reduces his death to a pithy slogan. After River’s grief and frustration finally boil over into vandalism, he discovers that someone knows he spray-painted the mustache on Dylan’s face. Blackmailed into joining the Affinity Trials, a study about friendship, River finds himself in close quarters with Mavis, a childhood friend who despises him and was also Dylan’s girlfriend. Over the course of the weeklong study, River starts new friendships and mends others, all while digging for the truth behind the trial’s technology and attempting to unravel his possible romantic feelings for Dylan. As the trials draw to a close, even reality itself comes into question for the participants, and River faces a difficult choice. Couch juxtaposes realistic, emotionally affecting scenes that expose the events of the night Dylan died with a week’s worth of present-day speculative-fiction intrigue, swiftly pulling the narrative along beside heartbreakingly accurate depictions of grief. The three main characters, who have layers of hurt feelings between them, are captivating and sympathetic. Readers who think they know what’s coming will be surprised. River is white; Mavis and Dylan are loosely described and read white.

An emotionally intense exploration of grief combined with creative speculation about the nature of friendship. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 28, 2024

ISBN: 9781665935302

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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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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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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