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A nuanced yet plainly told novel about a runaway teen in the 1970s.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A teenager hits the road after her life derails in McGuinn’s literary novel.

When 14-year-old Peg thinks of her future, she hopes it will involve writing and travel—maybe a career in journalism or the Foreign Service. In the journal she’s required to keep for her English class, most of her entries are about her chaste crushes on her male classmates. When a student at a local college invites her to a frat party, she goes only to be drugged and raped by him and several of his friends. The next day, Peg begins to remember what happened, and her entire view of herself changes: “Actually, I’m beginning to have flashes of memory, some of the things I did and let them do to me. I did like it, at least some of it. I’m such a slut. Who will ever want me?” She soon fears that she’s pregnant. She runs away from home, hoping to get to Harrisburg to stay with a friend, but she quickly ends up with an older man named Nick. She stays with him for a while, taking drugs and becoming increasingly codependent, until she realizes that Nick is a pimp with a house full of girls working for him. Peg escapes and resumes her journey, traveling across the country, attaching herself to problematic men, and bouncing through the rest of the 1970s far from home. McGuinn switches between the perspectives of an older Peg looking back on events and the younger Peg who writes in her journal, creating a layered portrait that involves realistic uncertainties: “Time plays tricks on our memories and I didn’t write very much in my journal those days. I was drunk or stoned with Charlie most of the time.” In some ways, the novel is a brutal cautionary tale, showing how one mistake can spiral into a life-changing series of events. In another, however, it is a moving coming-of-age narrative about a girl who discovers herself amid extreme circumstances.

A nuanced yet plainly told novel about a runaway teen in the 1970s.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Durare Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2020


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


An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away.

A Mexican American boy takes on heavy responsibilities when his family is torn apart.

Mateo’s life is turned upside down the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents show up unsuccessfully seeking his Pa at his New York City bodega. The Garcias live in fear until the day both parents are picked up; his Pa is taken to jail and his Ma to a detention center. The adults around Mateo offer support to him and his 7-year-old sister, Sophie, however, he knows he is now responsible for caring for her and the bodega as well as trying to survive junior year—that is, if he wants to fulfill his dream to enter the drama program at the Tisch School of the Arts and become an actor. Mateo’s relationships with his friends Kimmie and Adam (a potential love interest) also suffer repercussions as he keeps his situation a secret. Kimmie is half Korean (her other half is unspecified) and Adam is Italian American; Mateo feels disconnected from them, less American, and with worries they can’t understand. He talks himself out of choosing a safer course of action, a decision that deepens the story. Mateo’s self-awareness and inner monologue at times make him seem older than 16, and, with significant turmoil in the main plot, some side elements feel underdeveloped. Aleman’s narrative joins the ranks of heart-wrenching stories of migrant families who have been separated.

An ode to the children of migrants who have been taken away. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5605-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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