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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
The Smell of Lilacs by Katie Marshall features protagonist Mackenzie ‘Kenzie’ Carter, who has the same worries and problems as any other teenager. She wonders how her younger sister, Rachael, can have the perfect hourglass figure while she believes her body resembles a butternut squash. At least she has the most amazing friends and together they can face any obstacle. Kenzie realizes that being a high school senior comes with specific pressures to cope with love's complicated emotions. Her friendship with Cayden is deepening daily, but could they ever be more than friends? As Kenzie discovers a horrifying secret about one of her friends, she also has to overcome personal emotional problems. From a bright future ahead, Kenzie’s world is turned upside down. As she struggles to see anything but a future of darkness and sadness, Kenzie must decide whether she will allow her overwhelming grief to define who she is or allow love into her heart. Will she choose Cayden or solitude?
The Smell of Lilacs by Katie Marshall is a fascinating and well-written coming-of-age novel. Kenzie is an excellent character and a great role model for any teenage reader. She is exceptionally kind-hearted and sensitive to the needs of others while possessing very high standards and morals. Every character, especially Aubrey, is believable and the authentic dialogue highlights their personalities perfectly. I love the many layers to the plot that are gradually revealed. The storyline moves forward at a fast pace, which makes for a compelling read. There are some subtle but compelling lessons around body image, self-respect, and peer pressure. I also thought the subject of grief and losing someone dear was handled with much sensitivity and realism. Author Katie Marshall covered teenage self-harm superbly, and the scenes surrounding this issue were poignant and touching. The Smell Of Lilacs is a very healing and cathartic read, filled with characters that promote self-confidence and belief in your unique talents. I highly recommend it.