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A twisted page-turner of a survival tale.

A so-called enrichment retreat proves to be anything but relaxing.

Claire Dreyer is an overachieving worrier: In every situation, she thinks of ways everything could go wrong and end with her dying. Her parents send her to a camp held at the remote Maine Lake House for a summer of making friends and boosting her resume for college applications. But upon arrival, she and the two other girls dropped off by motorboat discover only the burned-down shell of the house. Worse, in the woods they find the program director’s dead body—she has been shot. Claire, Reyva Chaudhari, and Mariana Ortiz-Rodriguez are stuck, and without cell service, they can’t call for help. They must use their wits to keep themselves alive and uncover the truth. Although they packed for a retreat and not a multiday hike around the lake and back to the dock, they must push onward. The characters exhibit real depth as they discuss their fears and try to make the best of the situation. Each teen brings her problems—as well as her potential—to the group, including protagonist Claire, who has intense anxiety. Her fears are a double-edged sword that sometimes send her spiraling but also bring awareness to the group regarding ways to stay safe. There is no lull in this novel; just when things start to make sense, readers will have the rug pulled out from under them. Names cue characters’ ethnicities.

A twisted page-turner of a survival tale. (Thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780063214071

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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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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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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