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MERCY RULE

Teens looking for tension and melodrama may find this to be an appealing read but only if they’re willing to overlook a few...

The lives of a dozen diverse high school students and a teacher are examined in the months leading up to a Halloween school shooting.

Following setup pages in the frontmatter that reproduce an ominous exchange of text messages, seven narrators lead readers through the chaotic world of high school. Sophomore Danny is a loner, expelled from his arts-based high school and starting over at a new school. Seniors Brady and Donte are football players with hard lives coupled with the drive to win in the game and in life. Freshman Cadence is an upbeat realist trying to make friends at her new school. Senior Vivi is new to both the school and her upper-middle-class lifestyle. Freshman Drea is looking for friends and the strength to stop cutting herself. And Coach, the father figure to Brady and Donte, wants his football team to win and his players to become upstanding men. Leveen captures the Sturm und Drang of high school, but the overall story suffers; with seven narrators, some stories—such as Drea’s and Vivi’s—feel like afterthoughts. A critical revelation in the final act feels contrived, as one of the motivations for the shooting spree relates to a false charge of child pornography, and asking readers to believe the shooter’s parents were clueless is a hard sell.

Teens looking for tension and melodrama may find this to be an appealing read but only if they’re willing to overlook a few plot holes along the way. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2698-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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