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FRAGILE LIKE US

A beautiful, heartfelt appreciation of the importance of girls’ friendships.

Barnard’s debut is a very different kind of love story.

Caddy Oliver has just turned 16. It’s time she had a love story, so she’s created a list of three milestones to reach in the next year: get a boyfriend, lose her virginity, and experience her first Significant Life Event. This last is very important. Caddy’s life is ordinary and hopelessly average; surely something significant will change everything. And something does happen, albeit gradually and without Caddy’s realizing it, because the event doesn’t appear in the way she thought it would. A new girl in her seemingly all-white Brighton, England, neighborhood, the confident, blonde Suzanne, enters Caddy’s life. Suzanne is fun, a breath of fresh air, but she also seems to be hiding something. When she confides in Caddy that she had been repeatedly beaten by her stepfather before moving to Brighton to live with her aunt, Caddy becomes heavily involved in Suzanne’s life as she continually enables the latter girl’s self-destructive behavior in a misguided attempt to help her heal. Breaking the rules with Suzanne is thrilling, but their adventures only push Suzanne further down the proverbial rabbit hole. The narrative doesn’t minimize Suzanne’s pain and depression, nor does it simplify the gray areas for readers’ understanding. Through Caddy’s first-person narration, the complexities of such experiences are questioned by an outsider who doesn’t understand it but tries, because she loves her friend.

A beautiful, heartfelt appreciation of the importance of girls’ friendships. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8610-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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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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