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FERAL YOUTH

A compelling, uncomfortable narrative that lets readers know that the tragedy the world can bring to teens transcends...

Ten teenagers have been blindfolded by their camp counselors, taken into the woods, and left to find their way back to the main camp, in three days.

Camp Zeppelin Bend isn’t a fun summer camp. It’s a mandatory camp created for teens whose lives have led them there as a last stop before jail or juvie. As a coping strategy, each teen takes a turn to tell a story, and no one knows what is true and what isn’t. The main character who carries the narration of this book, Gio, prompts the storytelling challenge. In alternating chapters, written by different authors, each teen shares the disturbing experiences that led them to Zeppelin Bend. Wealthy, white Georgia shares a ghost story connected to being bullied. Jenna, also rich and white, reveals the deteriorating mental state that led her to pyromania. Tino, who’s Mexican, like Gio, boasts of the actions he took to avenge his father’s death in a haunting tale set in a small California college town. As the collection progresses, each story grows more fantastical, with many that allude to mythology and fairy tales. From the first sentence (“I’m not a liar”), collection editor Hutchinson grabs readers with a raw, spot-on monologue that invites readers into heavy issues teens are struggling to navigate, many with distant or absent parents. Due to the mature, often raw content, this is a book that would also be valuable for adult readers who have the courage to face the darker things teens don’t tell them.

A compelling, uncomfortable narrative that lets readers know that the tragedy the world can bring to teens transcends socio-economics, gender, and race. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9111-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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