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THE TAMING OF THE DREW

Lighthearted and fluffy, this is both a wonderful immersion in Shakespeare and a great beach book.

What do Shakespeare, Clueless, and Punk’d have in common? This novel.

Cass, a Springsteen-loving white actress from New Jersey, just landed her pre-college dream job playing the lead in Taming of the Shrew at Vermont’s premier outdoor Shakespeare theater, which comes with the added bonus of escaping the aftermath of her parents’ tumultuous divorce. Much as 10 Things I Hate About You does on film, Strohm’s latest novel (Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, 2013, etc.) deftly fuses Shakespeare’s play about the battle of the sexes with pop culture and romantic comedy. Since the aforementioned play is actually performed onstage here rather than merely referenced, readers become audience members, drawn into the beauty of the Bard’s language and the zaniness of backstage drama. A car accident becomes a meet-cute with a sarcastic and infuriating New Yorker, who turns out to be Drew, her leading man in the upcoming production. To teach him a lesson, Cass decides to “tame” Drew by playing pranks on him, much as his character does to hers. While the plot outcome is to be expected, a novel of this sort is more about the journey than the destination, and Cass and Drew’s repartee makes the journey well worth taking. What this breezy novel captures particularly well is the joy of theater, which lets you “lose yourself in someone else’s life.” While the cast is not notably diverse, it does include many recognizable theater types.

Lighthearted and fluffy, this is both a wonderful immersion in Shakespeare and a great beach book. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0215-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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