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TREMENDOUS THINGS

Fills a need for representation—but not entirely successfully.

A fat teen gains self-confidence in a quest to get the girl.

Fourteen-year-old Wilbur Alberto Nuñez-Knopf is still trying to recover from his “Number One Defining Moment.” Upon entering seventh grade after being home-schooled, Wil’s deeply embarrassing time-capsule letter was found and shared by a classmate on social media. Now dubbed “Wank” by peers, the straight, White Toronto teen is a social pariah. Wil’s luck starts to change when Charlie, a beautiful French exchange student, is placed at his house for the week. Wil’s feelings for Charlie come fast, but class bully Tyler (the “Chris Hemsworth” to Wil’s “Napoleon Dynamite”) hooks up with her instead. In an attempt to avoid being friend-zoned yet again when he visits Charlie in France, Wil agrees to let his gay friends and 85-year-old neighbor “do a Queer Eye” and make him over. But will it be enough? Nielsen’s quirky portrayal of a sensitive male with a working-class, two-mom family is welcome, and the tone is mostly light and fun. However, many of the characters—unfortunately especially Charlie—lack sufficient depth to move beyond trope territory. Though body-shaming is often called out and at least one fat character is full of confidence and self-acceptance, the repeated use of “some pig” (from Charlotte’s Web) as an affirmation and the intense emphasis on size toe the line between reclamation and fatphobic objectification. There is some ethnic diversity in secondary characters.

Fills a need for representation—but not entirely successfully. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6838-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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