WHERE THE ROAD LEADS US

A feel-good story with depth.

The best road trip may be the one that’s unplanned.

On the doubly momentous day of Jack’s 18th birthday and high school graduation in Southern California, he’s still grieving his father’s recent death. His mother, a sex therapist to celebrities, is away on a book tour, and his longtime girlfriend has just broken up with him. While packing for a next-day flight to start an internship in New York before heading to Columbia, he discovers a letter from his father to his missing older brother, who struggles with drug addiction and is apparently living in San Francisco. Across town, Hallie, who dropped out of school her sophomore year due to cancer, plots to sneak away from her parents’ pancake restaurant to attend the assisted suicide in Portland of a friend she met in an online support group. Alternating first-person chapters recount their converging storylines as Jack decides to find his brother and Hallie’s bus gets delayed. With an aspiring actor as their ride-hire–app driver, the teens spend 24 hours together, traveling north and exploring. Reul presents a fresh take on serendipitous encounters as a mix of humorous escapades and soulful discussions cause Jack and Hallie to reevaluate their futures and take charge of their lives, with a hint of romance also driving the tension. Excepting Jack’s best friend who is implied Indian American, characters are White by default.

A feel-good story with depth. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3525-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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