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ENDURING FREEDOM

A touching tale of understanding and friendship.

A dual-perspective narrative detailing the events of Operation Enduring Freedom through the eyes of an Afghan teen and a young American soldier.

In the days leading up to 9/11, 16-year-old Baheer and his family lived in fear of the Taliban and their strict laws. Joe Killian, a high school senior and Iowa Army National Guard enlistee, is angered by the al-Qaida attacks and eager for revenge. So he is disappointed to learn that his unit is in fact tasked with the rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, studious Baheer is optimistic as he approaches the U.S. soldiers in hopes of improving his English and bettering his country with these new allies. Their first encounter does not go well, but Baheer and Joe over time develop a friendship as they help each other learn and dismantle prejudices. Rather than attempting to be a sociopolitical history, this is an intensely personal story inspired by a real-life friendship: The authors, who met in the same way as the protagonists, blend their individual perspectives and ideologies into a cohesive narrative. Though there are some issues with pacing, the book overall does a solid job of showing the impact of their bond while acknowledging that others on both sides held differing views. The message of education as a vehicle for progress and dismantling hatred is one that will strike a chord with readers.

A touching tale of understanding and friendship. (authors' notes) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64375-040-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Algonquin

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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