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NO PERFECT PLACES

An emotional story of familial ties.

Twin siblings Olly and Alex Brucke face personal demons when their incarcerated father passes away.

The summer before their senior year of high school, Olly and Alex’s well-known tech CEO father dies from a heart attack while still in prison. But before he dies, he tells Olly not to tell his sister about their secret half brother. Tyler Dell, who is two years older than the twins, sent a letter that Olly intercepted and kept from his sister. A year later, Alex is mired in an abusive relationship with a rich-boy drug dealer, and while Olly is coping, he’s still tangled in his father’s lies. The narrative, which alternates between the two siblings, tackles big themes, mostly with a light hand. The twins must wrestle with the injustice of the prison system while also confronting their father’s guilt and their family’s White privilege. They also have to reconcile loving their father with the fact that he committed fraud, evaded taxes, and embezzled funds and was emotionally abusive toward their mother. Olly’s gender identity and sexuality are included seamlessly, not the focus of the story but making a genuine impact. However, the intimate details of Olly and his boyfriend Khalid Zaid’s sex life shift the tone and feel like they were dropped in from another book. This intense, dramatic novel that explores complicated relationships, coping with adversity, and the fallout of keeping secrets will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven stories.

An emotional story of familial ties. (map) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781547611072

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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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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