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EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN'T

Sure to take the gold.

At almost 16 years old, Olivia Kennedy, daughter of Olympic gold medalists, already feels like a washed-up failure of a figure skater.

Once the reigning U.S. junior pairs figure skating champions, Olivia and her partner’s first season on the Senior Grand Prix circuit was a disaster, and now she’s given up competitive skating and is navigating regular high school for the first time. She’s also working at her parents’ ice rink, Ice Dreams, which is struggling financially, while medical bills mount for her mother’s back injury. But when speed skating Olympic hopeful Jonah Choi books the rink for his private training sessions, things heat up. Jonah’s determination to be the best is both relatable and inspiring to Olivia, and their friendship grows into something more. Fans of the 1992 movie The Cutting Edge will wonder if that something more includes pairs figure skating, but Fujimura (Breathe, 2018, etc.) simply gives a nod to the movie and takes Olivia’s journey on its own trajectory. Olivia has many obstacles to overcome, including absent parents (both literally and figuratively), lack of emotional support, and financial struggles, but her character is believable from start to finish, and the romance is not overly saccharine. Comic relief and perspective are provided by Mack, Olivia’s white best friend. Olivia is half white and half Japanese; Jonah is three-quarters Korean and one-quarter assumed white.

Sure to take the gold. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20407-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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