EVERYTHING'S NOT FINE

Alive with vibrant, raw emotion.

A 17-year-old artist’s world is knocked sideways when her mother overdoses.

High school senior Rose Hemmersbach’s life is occupied by shifts at Walmart, looking after her three younger siblings, and healing from a freshly broken heart. Rose dreams of the day she can leave the mundanity of rural Sparta, Wisconsin, to attend art school. But then she discovers her heroin-addicted mother overdosed on the kitchen floor and her life spirals out of control with feelings of guilt and helplessness as she begins to suffer from artist’s block; that which used to bring life to her days no longer sustains her. The family, already teetering on the edge of poverty, is evicted, and her parents are being investigated by child protective services. Rose blames herself for everything. Can she box up the thoughts of things she can’t control and focus solely on what she can? Rose’s first-person narration is a roller coaster of believable emotions and inner conflict: Feelings of love for her mother and the desire to have her back home get twisted up in her anger and the desire for Mom to stay away. Rose, whose artistic hero is Frida Kahlo, describes the world in colors; she doesn’t see red, blue, and brown, but alizarin crimson, phthalo blue, and burnt umber. Rose’s art partner and possible new love, Rafa, is Mexican American; assume Whiteness for everyone else.

Alive with vibrant, raw emotion. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68442-410-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Turner

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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

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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