A heartbreaking case worth revisiting again and again.

Two West Virginia teens become as close as two boys can get—until one stabs the other.

During the course of a three-day deposition, Nate, the victim, gives the prosecutor a detailed account of how Cam stabbed him. Before it turns violent, the bromance begins when the two pair up in 11th grade biology class. Between formerly attending private Catholic schools and losing family members young, the two share an intimate connection. As that intimacy becomes physical, problems start to arise—for one, Nate has a girlfriend. Nate’s home, run by his straight-laced aunt, is also one of rules. The newest rule is that Nate can’t see Cam anymore. But Nate still wants to. Cam does, too. So, why the violence? The first-person present-tense narrative twists between dialogue, letters, and descriptive sequences. Jolting moments of direct address heighten the drama. Though the adults read as extremes, debut author Smedley adds depth by including intimate backstories. Nate’s internalized homophobia and Catholic guilt mix, resulting in a layered, complex depiction of questioning (bi)sexuality. Meanwhile, ignostic Cam provides a more bi-positive foil. Smedley’s tight control of the structure, alternating between burgeoning romance and cringeworthy case details, skillfully results in cognitive dissonance. Most of the cast presents as white, but the prosecutor is black and uses a wheelchair.

A heartbreaking case worth revisiting again and again. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62414-735-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019


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


A searing romance.

Two girls wounded by their past relationships grapple with the undeniable intensity of their feelings for one another in this novel based on the pop-star author’s popular song and music video.

Seventeen-year-old Coley, who is White and Japanese, braces for impact as a minivan hurtles toward her in a parking lot. The crash never comes, but in that moment, she and fierce Sonya, beautiful with her tan skin and dark hair and eyes, collide. Horrible circumstances brought Coley to small-town Oregon; after her mom’s suicide, she’s raw with grief and stuck living with the dad who abandoned her when she was 3. Wealthy, competitive dancer Sonya feels no less trapped. Afraid of rejection and loneliness, she buries her true self to appease her perfectionist mother and the demanding ex-boyfriend who refuses to let her go. Unspoken attraction pulls Coley and Sonya together, but the masks they wear to protect themselves from their pain create a barrier that may keep them apart. Set in the summer of 2006, the novel alternates Sonya’s public and private LiveJournal posts that reveal her side of the story with Coley’s first-person narration. Sharp, poetic prose heightens the emotional and romantic drama. References to early 2000s pop and alternative music in Sonya’s posts create a playlist that sheds more light on her feelings. Coley demonstrates satisfying character growth as she opens up to herself and others. Apart from Coley, most characters are presumed White.

A searing romance. (content note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781250817631

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023