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SQUIRE

An engaging graphic novel that examines the nature of prejudice and the cost of imperial expansion.

Teenage Aiza hungers for adventure and hopes to become a Squire in the Bayt-Sajji army, which would set her on the path to knighthood.

Being a Knight means heroism, glory, and—for those like Aiza who reside in conquered territories—the possibility of full citizenship. As an Ornu person, easily recognized by the tattoo on her right arm, Aiza faces discrimination from those who resent her people’s hesitation about integrating. Altering her identification papers and covering up her tattoo, she sets off and joins an ethnically diverse cohort that reflects the vast reach of the Bayt-Sajji Empire and the vision of unification held by Gen. Hende, the woman who oversees the recruits’ training. After Aiza fails the first set of Squire tests, she finds an unexpected mentor in groundskeeper Doruk, who helps Aiza improve her sword work but warns her about the violent realities of war; he lost his right arm in battle. History as a purposefully crafted narrative is a dominant theme throughout the story, underscored by calls for unity. The setting, which reads as a fantasy version of Jordan, is beautifully and luminously colored, with artwork that emphasizes the interplay of light and shadow. The characters’ expressions are another visual highlight, used to great effect for both comic and dramatic impact.

An engaging graphic novel that examines the nature of prejudice and the cost of imperial expansion. (character sketches, historical notes, creators' notes) (Graphic fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-294585-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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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

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