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HEY JUDE

An emotionally layered book with accurate insight into mental illness, ideal for reluctant readers.

Penny’s life hasn’t been her own since she started caring for her sister, Jude, but everything starts to change when she meets Jack.

Their mother works night shifts as a nurse, leaving high school senior Penny to pick up the slack. Her life revolves around Jude, school, and work. Penny isn’t complaining, though; she loves Jude and recognizes how challenging it is for Jude to cope with her depression, particularly since it has been only one year since Jude attempted suicide. Penny seems to have it together until she meets cool, handsome Jack, who gives her butterflies all over. With everything going on in her life, Penny is torn between wanting to be there for her sister while also having a life of her own. The book talks about suicide, depression, gender, and sexuality in an appropriate, honest, and sensitive manner. The main characters each have a strong character arc that is explored to the fullest despite the short length and accessible vocabulary. The author’s passions for diversity and mental health come across. Main characters are cued as white; Jack is brown-skinned and there is ample LGBTQIA representation. There are multiple mentions of suicide and suicide attempts.

An emotionally layered book with accurate insight into mental illness, ideal for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2635-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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