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THE BORDER

Messy and thrilling, flawed and often brilliant.

On the run from narcos, four Mexican teens flee home and head to the U.S. in Schafer’s audacious YA debut.

The all-black car lingers. Pato sees it, and the concealed people within, but he sets his worries aside as he joins his family and friends at his cousin’s quinceañera. It happens in an instant: gunshots like firecrackers fill the air. Suddenly, everyone’s gone except for Pato, his best friend, Arbo, tough guy Marcos, and Pato’s obligatory love interest, Gladys. This opening sequence—one among a handful of equally suspenseful scenes, including a car chase in the border town of Sonoyta—makes the quieter, bleaker moments that follow seem all the more intense, stressing the desperate troubles these teens endure. Behind the massacre is a cartel group known as La Frontera, who publicize a reward for the capture of Pato and friends. This bounty scares off the shellshocked teens, sending them across the U.S.–Mexico border and into the blazing Sonoran Desert, where the devastating heat poses more of a threat than the border patrols and coyotes that operate in it. Looming over them in their escape is the uncertainty of life in the U.S., an apprehension that Schafer weaves throughout and summarizes in one raw, timely exchange: “You think they want you in their country? They don’t.” Revelations come in inevitable wallops (why were Pato’s family and friends targeted?). Attempts at humor and fleshing out the bonds between characters sometimes ease things up but not always. This difficult balance is best summed up by Pato and Gladys’ relationship, which is simultaneously out of place and, yet, disarmingly human.

Messy and thrilling, flawed and often brilliant. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4683-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

From the Good Girl's Guide to Murder series , Vol. 1

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense.

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Everyone believes that Salil Singh killed his girlfriend, Andrea Bell, five years ago—except Pippa Fitz-Amobi.

Pip has known and liked Sal since childhood; he’d supported her when she was being bullied in middle school. For her senior capstone project, Pip researches the disappearance of former Fairview High student Andie, last seen on April 18, 2014, by her younger sister, Becca. The original investigation concluded with most of the evidence pointing to Sal, who was found dead in the woods, apparently by suicide. Andie’s body was never recovered, and Sal was assumed by most to be guilty of abduction and murder. Unable to ignore the gaps in the case, Pip sets out to prove Sal’s innocence, beginning with interviewing his younger brother, Ravi. With his help, Pip digs deeper, unveiling unsavory facts about Andie and the real reason Sal’s friends couldn’t provide him with an alibi. But someone is watching, and Pip may be in more danger than she realizes. Pip’s sleuthing is both impressive and accessible. Online articles about the case and interview transcripts are provided throughout, and Pip’s capstone logs offer insights into her thought processes as new evidence and suspects arise. Jackson’s debut is well-executed and surprises readers with a connective web of interesting characters and motives. Pip and Andie are white, and Sal is of Indian descent.

A treat for mystery readers who enjoy being kept in suspense. (Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9636-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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