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SUMMER PEOPLE

A timely mystery exploring multiple complex themes with coming-of-age elements.

A young woman must uncover dark secrets and confront those she loves most to find the truth hidden in her community.

Christmas Miller, from the town of Sweet Lake, New York, has just graduated high school and is looking forward to seeing her best friend, regular summer visitor Lexi. Their happy reunion is short-lived however, as they attend a heated town hall meeting on Sweet Lake’s invasive algae problem where hostile, narrow-minded attitudes expressed by locals contribute to an uncomfortable misunderstanding between the friends. They go outside to talk things out and find Lemy, Christmas’ gay friend, unconscious in the lake; he survives but ends up in a coma. Determined to solve the algae problem, discover what happened to Lemy, repair her relationship with Lexi, and explore a budding romance with Brooklynite Rory, Christmas has a lot going on. As the story progresses, many difficult topics are explored with sensitivity. Christmas has ADHD, and her portrayal gives readers insight into the challenges that can stem from others’ lack of awareness of neurodivergence while highlighting the positives of embracing your identity. The characters are written with a comfortable familiarity that allows readers to relate to what they endure and root for their happy outcomes. Most characters are white; Lexi is described as “half Dominican” (her remaining ancestry is not named), and Lemy’s husband is Chinese American.

A timely mystery exploring multiple complex themes with coming-of-age elements. (author’s note) (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 9780744302509

Page Count: 288

Publisher: CamCat Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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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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