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Queer and lush—and appealing and flawed in equal measure.

A dark, sensuous riff on “Beauty and the Beast.”

The 100-year-old Sorceress Who Eats Girls has kidnapped the heir to the empire, and only Nothing, a 17-year-old girl who is the prince’s faithful companion, and Sky, his male bodyguard and secret lover, can possibly save him. While this is mostly Nothing’s story, Prince Kirin’s genderfluidity drives the inciting element and continues to be an important thread throughout (although male pronouns are used exclusively for Kirin). Nothing is a mystery to herself and others, but the Sorceress—gorgeously terrifying and playing the Beast role, complete with frequent marriage proposals—seems to know something of Nothing’s past. Threads of identity, choice, and power snake through this lush story, sometimes interrogated (the relationship between Nothing and Kirin), other times mired in sexual attraction (as with Nothing and the Sorceress). The dynamics of age and power differentials in the central sexual relationships are not explicitly addressed and may feel uncomfortable to some readers. The magic and the avalanche of physical details take center stage while the characters move through this cinematic sensory feast slightly out of focus, although Nothing and Sky appeal nevertheless. Many elements of the fantasy world feel inspired by ancient China without being overtly Asian. While race plays no explicit role, human characters are described with a range of skin tones from light to copper, with uniformly dark hair and eyes.

Queer and lush—and appealing and flawed in equal measure. (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6077-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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 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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