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A multifaceted thriller with a powerful social message.

Residents of a small town experience a reckoning when a mysterious app leads a group of teens to a dead body.

The first time he plays Manifest Atlas, an app game that people claim can give you anything you ask for, Willie Eckles wants a sign. Life feels stagnant in rural Calico Springs, a predominantly white Missouri town, and Willie yearns for some direction. He’s mystified to find that the app delivers on his requests—albeit with a cryptic twist each time—but no one believes him, not even Bones, his older brother. Eventually, Willie convinces Bones and his friends (including Sarai from neighboring Lawton, a predominantly Black town) to play with him, but they get more than they bargained for when it leads them to the dead body of Sarai’s white stepfather, who was in a rare interracial marriage. Unconvinced by the authorities’ ruling out of foul play, Willie and his group begin an investigation that stirs up tensions in a community that doesn’t like people probing for answers. As Willie tests the limits of the game’s abilities, he finds that their small town holds darker secrets than he ever expected. Willie’s journey is one of awakening—opening his eyes to social problems and choosing to face that reality rather than turn from it. The page-turning suspense is a draw, but the book’s ultimate strength is its skillful exploration of racial injustice in rural America.

A multifaceted thriller with a powerful social message. (author’s note, further reading) (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780063160484

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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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

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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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