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TWO ROADS FROM HERE

“Destiny or decision?” The answer may be unknowable, but Steinkellner gives readers something to think about.

Five high school seniors face major choices.

White, fat lineman Brian Mack has a concussion; should he play in the big game or quit the team in order to prevent further injury? Mexican-American Allegra Rey has been accepted to Stanford, but her mother is terminally ill; should she stay home or go to college? White detention-dweller Wiley Otis is Allegra’s best friend, and he’s been in love with her for years; does he tell her and risk losing her friendship? White girl Nikki Foxworth loves her boyfriend, but should she have sex with him? Black, gay, “deviously bitchtastic” Cole Martin-Hammer wants desperately to get into an elite school; will he cheat on the SAT in order to achieve his dream? Deeply drawn characters and skillful use of multiple first-person narratives take readers down two possible paths, “Road One” and “Road Two.” Nikki confronts sexism and double standards head-on by refusing to be prude- or slut-shamed. Cole is a gossipy cliché, but he’s redeemed by a gradual maturity. Unquestioned by characters or the text, Wiley’s behavior indicates he believes he’s earned romantic status because he’s been a good pal to Allegra; this can be problematic.

“Destiny or decision?” The answer may be unknowable, but Steinkellner gives readers something to think about. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3061-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 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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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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