An entertaining romance that could have benefited from more character development.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE

When Sweetie Nair embraces her identity as a fat person, the results lead to a Bollywood-style romance.

Indian-American Sweetie is fat. She’s also a star athlete, a talented singer, and a straight-A student, but somehow, her body always seems to eclipse everything else. So when handsome, wealthy star basketball player Ashish Patel’s mother approaches Sweetie’s mother to set the two teens up on a date and Sweetie’s mother turns her down because of Sweetie’s weight, Sweetie decides that it’s time to take her life into her own hands. Step No. 1 in the Sassy Sweetie Project: Date Indian-American Ashish behind her parents’ backs. At first, Sweetie does this to prove her self-worth, but when the teens begin to fall for each other, she realizes that Ashish’s baggage, rather than her own, might be the real obstacle. Although it is refreshing to see a fat person of color as a romantic lead, Sweetie’s intuitive wisdom makes her seem almost magical, masking opportunities for nuance in her journey. At times, the prose is pedantic, listing the trials and tribulations of being a fat person rather than weaving it into the action. The contradiction is particularly visible since, by contrast, Ashish’s character trajectory delves deeply and believably into his vulnerability. The romantic scenes are a lot of fun to read but are not enough to carry the book.

An entertaining romance that could have benefited from more character development. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1678-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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