An appealing blend of environmental activism and romance that will engage reluctant readers.

Lily joins an environmental club purely to have an extracurricular for her college applications, yet she’s soon drawn into the group’s mission—and unorthodox tactics.

Lily yearns to leave her stifling town. She knows college is both the way out and a necessary step toward becoming a lawyer, her dream since her parents’ divorce. With this goal in mind, Lily has focused so completely on her academics that she has no friends; besides which, all her previous club-joining attempts have failed. Galvanized by college recruiters’ questions about extracurricular activities, Lily reluctantly joins Green for Good. There, she quickly makes new friends—most notably with Fiona, who becomes a love interest. When the club members find industrial waste dumped in the creek behind their school, Lily must decide how far she will go to help identify the culprit. Lily’s an appealing character with a believable voice as the narrator, and the novel is told in clear, accessible free verse. The individual poems vary in length but are mostly short, moving the plot along swiftly; some episodes are resolved in the space of one or two brief poems. Most characters seem to be White; Fiona and her grandmother, who communicate using sign language, are subtly cued as Native American. The abrupt ending is jarring, leaving so many loose threads a sequel seems necessary.

An appealing blend of environmental activism and romance that will engage reluctant readers. (Verse novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-978595-54-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: West 44 Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021


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


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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