WE ALL FALL DOWN

Again, the inimitable Cormier luridly explores the fouler corners of our spiritual attics. Jane Jerome and her family come home to find that vandals have destroyed their possessions, urinated on their walls, and left 14-year-old Karen in a coma at the bottom of the basement stairs. A deranged neighbor, who has already killed two people and styles himself "The Avenger," has witnessed the trashing and secretly vows to track down the four teens responsible. Jane slowly begins to overcome her feeling of being violated; as she pieces her life together again, she meets and falls in love with Buddy Walker—inevitably, one of the trashers. Impelled by guilt, by his parents' divorce, and by the urging of an amoral classmate, Buddy is rapidly becoming an alcoholic but finds that he needs the liquor less as his relationship with Jane heats up. The Avenger sees the two together, and his skewed world spins again: he tricks Jane into an empty building, ties her up, tells her about Buddy, and commits bloody suicide at her feet. Feeling still more violated by Buddy's perfidy, Jane retreats into emotional numbness, her love converted to pity. The author expertly twists both plot and characters in this shocking study of the effects of random violence; as usual for Cormier, failure and defeat are deeply felt, while victories, at best, are costly and ambiguous. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0440215560

Page Count: 193

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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