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THE SKY BLUES

An optimistic but unremarkable coming-of-age narrative.

When a hateful, viral email exposes a gay teen’s plan to ask his crush to prom, he and his friends rally together against the bigotry in their small Michigan town.

The end of senior year looms on the horizon. After Sky came out as gay over the winter holidays, his conservative Christian mother kicked him out, and he moved in with his friend Bree, a wealthy girl with a supportive family. Sky’s life explodes when someone hacks into the yearbook’s weekly email newsletter and spreads an Islamophobic, homophobic message about his private plans to ask another boy to prom. Apart from Sky’s crush, Ali, who is Iraqi American, and Sky’s best friend, Marshall, who is Black, the characters are all White. Learning to understand race and privilege plays a role in the story for Sky; early on he states that he’s among the few people close enough to Marshall to joke with him about race. Later he recognizes how many details about his friend’s life he is unaware of. A minor trans character also serves as a learning opportunity for Sky. The characterization overall lacks depth: Ali’s family’s experience living in an area filled with MAGA supporters is not developed, and Bree’s autistic 12-year-old brother, who has a neurotypical twin, is depicted in a way that feels infantilizing. However, the plot is suspenseful, the resolution is hopeful, and the story has positive moments—as with the casual, nonstigmatizing acknowledgement of porn.

An optimistic but unremarkable coming-of-age narrative. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7785-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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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