EVERY REASON WE SHOULDN'T

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. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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