Cover image for The last confession of Autumn Casterly
The last confession of Autumn Casterly
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343 pages ; 22 cm.
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When band-geek Ivy and her friends get together, things start with a rousing board game and end with arguments about Star Wars. Her older sister Autumn, aloof and tough as nails, hasn't had real friends in years. After a drug deal gone wrong, Autumn is beaten, bound, and held hostage. Now, trapped between life and death, she leaves her body, seeking help. No one can sense her presence-- except Ivy. As she follows a string of clues that bring her closer to rescuing her sister-- and closer to danger-- finding Autumn means untangling the secrets about what Autumn has been hiding. --


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When band-geek Ivy and her friends get together, things start with a rousing board game and end with arguments about Star Wars.

Her older sister Autumn is a different story. Enigmatic, aloof, and tough as nails, Autumn hasn't had real friends--or trusted anyone--in years. Even Ivy.

But Autumn might not be tough enough. After a drug deal gone wrong, Autumn is beaten, bound, and held hostage. Now, trapped between life and death, she leaves her body, seeking help. No one can sense her presence--except her sister.

When Autumn doesn't come home, Ivy just knows she's in trouble. Unable to escape the chilling feeling that something isn't right, Ivy follows a string of clues that bring her closer to rescuing her sister... and closer to danger.

Autumn needs Ivy to find her before time runs out. But soon, both sisters realize that finding her also means untangling the secrets that lead to the truth--about where they're hiding Autumn, and what Autumn has been hiding.

Author Notes

Meredith Tate grew up in Concord, New Hampshire, where she went on many adventures (but thankfully never had to solve any attempted murders). In college, she fell in love with her two passions-writing and traveling-while working on her first novel and studying abroad in London. She earned her master's degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire and worked in the field in Boston for several years before deciding to pursue her true dream of telling stories. After spending three wonderful years in St. Louis, Missouri, Meredith and her husband moved to Zurich, Switzerland as expats. When Meredith's not writing, she loves playing the piano, trying new recipes, and chasing her dream of seeing every continent (four down, three to go!).

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Autumn Casterly is ready to get out of her town. She has dreams and a college she wants to attend--not ideas normally associated with the school's biggest drug dealer. Ivy, Autumn's board game--playing, band-loving, nerdy younger sister couldn't be more different than tough and often absent Autumn. So when Autumn doesn't come home one evening, Ivy doesn't seem too surprised, except she has a strange feeling that things are not right. With alternating perspectives between the sisters, readers know that something terrible has happened to Autumn and Ivy investigates, often without the help of the adults in her life. As the story progresses, readers see glimpses of an assault that led to Autumn's distance from her family and see how the abuser faced no repercussions while Autumn's life fell to pieces. Ivy, with the help of her friends, begins to understand her sister more and more as she finds clues and pieces of her life. The mystery is engaging and readers will root for Ivy to find her sister in time. This book touches on important social issues around rape culture, shedding light on an experience when an abuser walks free and the survivor sees more damage to her reputation than the perpetrator to his. VERDICT Recommended for libraries wanting mysteries with substance.--Megan Huenemann, Norris High School, Firth, NE

Kirkus Review

When Autumn Casterly disappears, only her younger sister, Ivy, believes something is wrong. Everybody knows Autumn is a bad girl, a drug dealer who often spends the night away. So when Autumn doesn't come home one day after a drug deal gone wrong, no one bats an eye apart from Ivy. With the help of her close-knit group of friends, the Nerd Herd Club, Ivy starts to searcheventually unveiling the truth behind her sister's deceptively strong facade. What Ivy doesn't know is that the clock is ticking, and while Autumn's body lies broken and hostage, her spirit has been trying to communicate with Ivy. The narrative alternates between Autumn's violent story and Ivy's determined search in a story about two sisters that blends the mundane with the supernatural. The ill effects of rape culture and the systemic lack of support for survivors are deftly explored, but the novel's impact is ultimately marred by a contrived resolution. The fractured tonal shift between Autumn's and Ivy's narratives is an interesting, if jarring, choice (it's hard to care about Ivy's sweet but silly love triangle when readers know Autumn could soon be dead). The two main characters are white, and the novel has well-developed nonwhite and LGBTQIA characters. Ivy is fat and confident in her size; the fat-shaming she faces at school is addressed head-on. A thoughtful if flawed thriller. (Thriller. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Autumn On a scale of one to ten, my desire to talk to the cops who've spent the last twenty minutes digging through my locker is a raging neg-ative fifty. And yet, here I am. I breathe out a heavy sigh, watching them examine every single book, binder, and random thing in there. The shorter cop holds up a baggie full of nuts. "What's this?" "Honey-roasted peanuts. Very scary stuff." If I had known I'd be yanked out of fifth period, I wouldn't have blown two hours of my life writing that Faulkner paper last night. But everyone thinks their time is more valuable than mine--it comes with the territory of being a teenage girl. "What's this dusting on them?" I lean against the row of lockers behind me. "The honey-roasted part." If they were coated in cocaine, does he really think I'd look him in the eyes and say, They're coated in cocaine? "Otherwise I would've just said 'peanuts.'" This is Kaitlyn Kennedy's fault. Each second I stand here, the anger inside me simmers hotter. It's pretty much at a full-blown boil right now. Kaitlyn's lucky she's not here. She won't be so lucky later. I survey the pile of my crap they've dumped onto the common- room floor. "Can I go back to class now?" "We're almost done." The other cop, who looks like a less-hot clone of Rob Gronkowski, yanks the spare box of tampons out of my backpack. To my horror, he opens it. He literally opens my tampons and starts taking them out, one by one, right in the middle of the common room. "Seriously?" "We're just doing our job, Ms. Casterly." The short cop pulls out one of the tampons and sniffs it, and I pretty much want to melt into the carpet. What the hell? If they're going to sniff my stuff for drugs, at least bring a drug-sniffing dog for me to pet. Principal Greenwich hovers nearby, his caterpillar eyebrows low over his eyes. "Autumn, why is it that whenever there's a hint of trouble in this school, all roads seem to lead back to you?" "I didn't do anything, Mr. Greenwich. There's nothing in my locker but books and trash. And tampons." I'm not lying. I'd never keep my stash in my locker for this very reason. But it doesn't matter if they find anything or not. The principal has already pegged me as a criminal. I'm one of the "bad kids," and labels come with assumptions. They assume the bad kids are always monsters, and the good ones never are. A couple of doe-eyed freshmen whisper to each other as they pass, not even trying to hide their stares. Probably excited to tell their friends they witnessed Autumn Casterly getting her ass  handed to her by the cops. One of them looks like she might try and talk to me, but I glower and they walk faster. "You're probably one of the only senior girls whose locker isn't loaded with selfies and pictures of giant groups of girls making duckfaces." The cop chuckles, thrilled by his own joke. Ah yes, we've got a real comedian here. Nothing is funnier than belittling teen girls. But I can't help feeling like there was a hidden question in his statement--Don't you have any friends? I grind my shoe into the dirty carpet. Not-Rob-Gronkowski grins, holding up a photo of my dog, Pumpernickel. "Who's this?" Literally none of your business. "My dog." "He a miniature schnauzer?" "Yep." "Cute. My sister has one, they're great." Five minutes ago he made fun of my Proud Vegetarian magnet, so I'm pretty pissed he thinks he has the right to compliment my dog right now. I can almost see the amusement on his face that the school delinquent has a well-loved pet. As if the fact that I deal pills means I should be surrounded by vape pens and switchblades and maybe something really illegal, like a mountain of Kinder Eggs. But I love my dog. Loving animals is so much less complicated than loving humans. "Aw. This you?" He holds up another photo, crinkled at the edges. It's my mom and me sitting on the tire swing at Merrill Park when I was six. Back when we lived on the east side of town. Something catches in my throat. My mom's been dead for almost seven years, and I thought I'd be able to handle these things better by now. Everyone told me it would get easier--five stages of grief and all that stuff--but it hasn't yet. I look away. "Yep." The cops finish their prying and declare my locker officially drug-free. They don't offer to help put back my stuff they've so generously left strewn in the middle of the room. I force a smile as they leave, mentally shoving both middle fingers up their asses. The funny thing is, if they searched my bedroom, they'd have enough evidence to lock me away for a couple of years. I suppose that's what would happen if the system actually worked. "Thanks for your cooperation, Autumn." The principal says it like I had a choice. He nods as I start shoving books into my locker. "You can go back to class when you've finished up." No apology for ruining my day, of course. I throw my things inside a little harder than necessary, the metal clanging in my ears. My face gets hot when the bell rings and a flood of people burst into the common room. They send smiles and waves my way. Everyone wants to say they're Autumn Casterly's BFF. But none of them give two shits about me--they just want me to sell to them. The moment they think I'm out of earshot, words get tossed be-tween them in hushed whispers. Bitch. Slut. Liar. They'd never say it to my face, but my hearing is good. Too good. I stuff everything into my locker faster. Maybe if I was weaker, their words would pierce me. My mom used to say that we should be like ducks, letting gossip and insults flow off our backs like drops of water rolling down oily feathers. But I'm not a duck. I'm a predator. With each book and binder that I cram back into my locker, I repeat one promise in my head over and over: Kaitlyn Kennedy's getting her ass kicked after school.   Ivy Kevin is taking forever to make his move. His leg jitters against the chair leg beside me. Our Ticket to Ride Europe game board takes up half the table. Every time his knee jiggles, it knocks some of the train pieces off their spaces. "Hey, Marino, you planning to draw cards this year?" Alexa asks. A pink tinge spreads across Kevin's cheeks. "I'm thinking." Alexa's long, glittery fingernails click impatiently against the tabletop. We started the Nerd Herd Club last year, trying to make it a thing. It's still just the six of us. Our meetings usually start with someone geeking out over Final Fantasy and end with an argument about Star Wars (Han shot first, I don't give a shit what Jason says). We've recently delved into the wonderful world of board games--which is why we're meeting in the gross cafeteria today, because the librarian accused us of being too rowdy. I mean, I wouldn't call us rowdy; I'd say we have a spirited sense of competition. "Okay, I'm gonna build," Kevin says after an eternity. "Finally," Jason mutters. Kevin lays four blue train pieces onto the board, connecting Edinburgh and London. "Asshole!" Alexa fake-punches him in the arm. "I was gonna do that." The janitor swishes a dirty mop over the tiled floor. He looks less than thrilled to see us here after school. I nudge Kevin. "Let's meet at your place tomorrow. I feel like we've outworn our welcome in the cafeteria." "My mom's renovating our kitchen." "Better than this." Alexa flicks a lock of purple hair behind her ear. "She says no visitors until it's finished." Alexa's girlfriend, Sophie, finishes polishing her glasses and pushes them up the bridge of her nose. "Isn't there a rule that school clubs have to meet at school to count?" Jason lays a few tracks on the board. "I don't think hanging out every day counts as a club anymore." "It's a stupid rule anyway." Alexa rolls her eyes at him. "Seriously?  I was just about to build there." "Can we go to your house?" I ask Alexa. "Nope. My parents haven't seen this one since we officially started  dating." She affectionately nudges Sophie. "And I'd rather avoid the third degree. You know my dad would have the 'what are your  intentions with my daughter' talk with her." I snort. "Oh please. You're the one doing all the corrupting in this relationship." "It's true." Sophie grins. "But you have to let them see me before homecoming." "You going to homecoming, Ivy?" Jason asks. "You should go with me. As friends. So we don't look like losers." "I think it's too late for that," I say. "But sure." I'm a little relieved. Me and Jason have been going to dances as best-friend dates since freshman year, and I always worry he's going to get a girlfriend and ditch me. Then I'll be that person hanging out by the bathroom during slow songs. Alexa huffs. "What if she'd wanted to go with a real date?" My heart sinks. "He is a real date. Friends count." I draw two, doing a happy dance at the wild card. "Unless Patrick Perkins wants to move back to Concord and sweep me off my feet." Jason laughs. "Your lover." Patrick Perkins has been an inside joke ever since I told the group about him. I was so smitten with that kid back in fifth grade. We were besties. Seriously, he snuck two pints of Ben and Jerry's out of his parents' freezer for me the day I got my first period and wanted to die. That kid was the shit. Then his parents got a divorce and he moved away. It sucked. But now it's kind of funny. A couple upperclassmen stroll through the cafeteria in workout clothes, making a beeline for the snack machine. "Wassup, dungeon masters?" one of the guys yells. They practically fall over them-selves laughing. I don't really get what's so funny; we're playing board games, ha-ha? Kevin slinks down in his seat, his cheeks turning pink again. He's not great with standing up for himself when jerks show up. The rest of us protectively slide closer to him. "We're not playing D and D today," Alexa says coolly. "But I'll let you know next time we do. We've been looking for someone to play the troll." "You can be my dungeon master," the other guy says, popping quarters into the machine. I'll never understand why douchebags always hit on Alexa. First of all, she's been dating Sophie for, like, five months now, and they're always holding hands and stuff in the hallway. Second, she's got a big "I like my coffee like I like my men. I don't drink coffee."--Ellen DeGeneres button on her messenger bag. And lastly, she's deathly allergic to assholes. "Great! Here's my dungeon key." She sticks up her middle finger. "Get your snacks and go away." "This machine's been ransacked. You sure your friend didn't eat them all?" The way the guy says friend is ambiguous, but I know he's talking about me. "Hey." Jason jumps to his feet. Sophie puts her hand on his elbow to calm him down. "Wow, food jokes about the fat girl," I shout as they stride out of the cafeteria. "How original." Seriously, every time someone makes a crack about my weight, they think they're saying something  revolutionary. As if I had no idea I was fat until they pointed it out. "Sorry, Ivy." Jason settles back into his seat. "Those guys are pricks." "The tall one sits behind me in chem," Alexa adds. "Judging by his score on our last quiz, methinks he should spend less time being a dick and more time actually, you know, opening a book." I grin. "A radical concept. What were we talking about before that rude interruption?" "Where to meet tomorrow." Kevin blinks at his train tracks, which are spread victoriously across the entire map of Europe on the game board. "Also, I just completed my long route." The rest of us groan. Half the time I think Kevin is hustling us, because he acts so innocent but then kicks our asses at almost every game. "Total annihilation," Jason says. "What about your place, Ivy?" Sophie asks. "Can we meet there?" I shudder. "Nope. Never. I live with Satan." Jason snickers. "Is your sister really that bad?" Sophie asks. "I don't think I've ever actually met the infamous Autumn Casterly." "You're lucky. She should probably be in juvie," I mumble. Last year, I found this pamphlet on how to protect yourself from a snarl-ing dog threatening to bite. You're supposed to avoid eye contact, back away slowly, and speak in a calm tone when absolutely neces-sary; that's kind of what living with Autumn is like. "I wouldn't mind hanging out with your sister." Jason winks, laying down a couple tracks. "Jason Daly-Cruz, do you have the hots for Autumn?" Alexa wiggles her eyebrows. Jason grins. He thinks it's hilarious to joke about dating Autumn. "No." I draw a card. "No chance in hell." Kinda sucks when your sister is the pretty one and you have to listen to everyone talk about her constantly. I wouldn't be surprised if Jason did have a crush on Autumn. If not, he's probably the only hetero guy in our whole school who doesn't. Rumor has it she only goes out with college guys, though, and rumors are about as close as I get to actual details about her life. Deciphering Autumn's rumor mill is like playing two truths and a lie, but in this version of the game, there could be one truth, or two, or three, or zero, and I'd never know which. In the past week, I've heard that Autumn (1) blew off AP Euro to smoke weed in the teachers' lot, (2) was responsible for Carly Quince's ankle brace, and (3) sold painkillers to one of the school secretaries. All I know is, she vanishes constantly, and I don't even want to know whose bed she's sleeping in when she doesn't come home. With her reputation, I wouldn't think guys would fall at her feet like they do, but Autumn's beauty is like the rush of the ocean in a hurricane. From far away, she's mystifying and beautiful, like waves crashing on a stormy shore. However, the closer you get, the wilder and more dangerous she becomes, capable of pulling you under until you drown. Excerpted from The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly by Meredith Tate All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.