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EVERY LAST WORD

Clueless meets Dead Poets Society with a whopping final twist.

Spa days. VIP concert tickets. The envy of the girls in the lunchroom. Sixteen-year-old Samantha and her friends, the Crazy Eights, have it all—at least, that’s what Samantha has always let everyone believe.

Nobody can know the real Sam, the crazy girl with OCD. If they found out, it would cost her everything. But when an unlikely new friend introduces Sam to a secret society of student poets, speaking her truth becomes increasingly appealing. While the novel gets off to a misleading start as Sam battles violent, obsessive thoughts that are unlike anything else she experiences in the rest of the story, Stone does offer readers a fresh take on OCD by focusing on Sam’s internal struggle as opposed to the external behaviors that are typically associated with the disorder. Sam is an endearing protagonist readers will find familiar and enjoy rooting for. And while the Eights come off as flat, stereotypical cool girls, the oddball members of Poet’s Corner are genuinely intriguing. With the exception of Caroline, who introduces Sam to the group, and AJ, Sam’s new boyfriend, who are fully developed, readers, like Sam, will be left wishing they’d been allowed to get to know the rest of the crew better.

Clueless meets Dead Poets Society with a whopping final twist. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0527-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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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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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