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Library Journal Review
Fourteen-year-old June is a loner whose favorite activity is going to the woods in her lace-up boots and Gunne Sax dress and pretending she's a medieval falconer. It's the 1980s, and the only person who understands June is her gay uncle Finn, a famous artist dying of AIDS. June's visits with him in New York listening to Mozart and exploring the city have made her older sister Greta jealous. A popular girl with a starring role in the school musical, Greta treats June cruelly, hiding her devastation that they are no longer best friends. In the end, Finn's final creation, a portrait he painted of June and Greta, along with his secret lover, Toby, serve to unite the sisters. VERDICT Brunt's debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters.-Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In Brunt's sentimental debut novel, 15-year-old June must come to terms with the death of her beloved uncle Finn, an artist, from AIDS in 1980s New York. As she struggles with his death and her own grief, June secretly befriends her uncle's mysterious lover, Toby, blamed by her parents for Finn's death. What begins as a wary relationship between former rivals for Finn's affection blossoms touchingly. Though June gradually uncovers the conflicts between her mother and uncle, she faces adolescent problems as well (sibling rivalry, boys, parties). A wrenching climax finds June's family threatening to uncover her secret relationship with the ailing Toby. Though Brunt's approach to AIDS and homosexuality is bold, her novel is mostly an extended meditation on "all the meanness that could come out of loving someone too much." The plot is never dull, and the convincing emotional climaxes, while overwrought, are appropriate for a narrator of June's age. Though the book has young adult-novel qualities, with moral conflicts that resolve themselves too easily and characters nursing hearts of gold, there's enough ambiguity and subtlety to interest a wider audience. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Brunt's transcendent debut is an exploration of an unlikely friendship that blossoms in the wake of a terrible loss. It's 1987, and 14-year-old June Elbus is reeling from the death of her beloved uncle Finn, a famous painter who has succumbed to AIDS. Shy and introspective, June preferred spending time with Finn, even as she tried to hide, from herself as much as others, her secret crush on him. Finn's death leaves a gaping hole in June's life, and she's shocked when Toby, her uncle's lover and the man her mother holds responsible for his death, makes a bid to fill that emptiness by contacting June secretly. Toby simply wants to get to know her and give her several gifts Finn left for her, and June starts to thaw toward him after she finds a note in a book from Finn imploring her to look after Toby. June's burgeoning but covert friendship with Toby gives her new insight into Finn's life but strains the already tenuous bond between her and her older sister, Greta. Peopled by characters who will live in readers' imaginations long after the final page is turned, Brunt's novel is a beautifully bittersweet mix of heartbreak and hope.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Brunt's first novel elegantly pictures the New York art world of the 1980s, suburban Westchester and the isolation of AIDS. Fourteen-year-old June and 16-year-old Greta travel to Manhattan every few Sundays to be with Finn, their uncle. Finn is a renowned artist, dying of a largely unknown disease, and claims he wants to give them this last gift, though more likely it is the contact he craves. June and Finn have an intense relationship--he is charismatic and brilliant and takes her to special places; he is part magic and part uncle, and June adores him. Greta is jealous; she feels Finn favors June and stole her away. When he dies, June is devastated. At the funeral they see the one not to be mentioned: Finn's lover, Toby. June's mother refuses to admit him to the service and blames him for her baby brother's disease. Slowly, June and Toby develop a secret friendship, indulging their grief and keeping Finn alive through the exchange of memories. What she thought was simply Finn's apartment she discovers was their shared space, and much of what she loved about the place, and Finn, belongs to Toby. As she and Toby embark on Finn-worthy adventures, Greta is slowly falling apart, hiding in the woods drunk, sabotaging her chance at a summer stint on Broadway. Finn's portrait of the girls, worth nearly $1 million, is kept in a bank vault, and every time June visits (only she and Greta have keys) she notices additions to the painting that could only come from Greta. With Toby dying and Greta in danger, June lifts the covers off all of her family's secrets. There is much to admire in this novel. The subtle insight on sibling rivalry and the examination of love make for a poignant debut.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.