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This is honest, unapologetic realism from a diverse perspective not often seen in fiction for teens. Not to be overlooked....

Two sisters come of age in this thoughtfully crafted, well-researched verse novel of emerging selfhood.

Life for 16-year-old Grace and her sister Tippi hasn’t been easy: they’re conjoined twins—literally joined at the hip. They’ve spent their lives dealing with staring strangers and invasive questions, but the girls are happy together and wouldn’t have it any other way. Grace and Tippi have been home-schooled until now, but when the state decides to pay for the girls to attend a private high school instead, they begin their junior year among peers. After a few unfriendly gestures from other students, the girls befriend outsiders Yasmeen and Jon (Yasmeen is HIV-positive, and Jon is on scholarship) and settle into a life of firsts most “singleton” teens take for granted: learning to drive, getting drunk, skipping class, and for Grace, falling in love. When Grace is diagnosed with a bad heart, the twins have a difficult decision to make: risk the dangerous separation surgery so Grace can qualify for a transplant, or stay together and get sicker until they both die. Grace’s elegant and intimate first-person narration combines with her wry sense of humor to create a likable character in a believable situation.

This is honest, unapologetic realism from a diverse perspective not often seen in fiction for teens. Not to be overlooked. (author's note) (Verse fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-211875-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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