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HERE TO STAY

Powerful.

Bijan is a varsity athlete at a Boston-area prep school whose otherwise ordinary life gets disrupted when a cyberbully torments him because of his Iranian-Jordanian heritage.

Bijan’s status as rising star of the basketball team wins him an accolade in the high school paper, new friendships on the team, and, most importantly, attention from girls. It also produces envy and resentment: He wakes up one day to a schoolwide e-mail depicting him as a terrorist. At the heart of the plot is Bijan’s handling of his own emotions: a ferocious motivation to get to the bottom of the story and uncover the mysterious sender, offset by the impossible task of proceeding with his life—and the important upcoming games—as if nothing has happened. The teachers and school leadership are supportive, as is Bijan’s diverse circle of friends (including a black teammate who sympathizes with the shared experience of racism) and his unconditionally loving single mom. Yet the damage is done, and Bijan slowly discovers that not everyone is outraged; worse yet, some might even agree with the unknown cyberbully who strikes again, in a homophobic attack. Fed up, Bijan and his friends launch their own investigation. The novel effortlessly tackles several important societal issues, keeping them in the foreground without detracting from the main focus: Bijan’s entertaining internal color commentary that reveals his thought processes. The result is an engaging page-turner.

Powerful. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61620-700-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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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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