January 09, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

Senior year of high school is a tumultuous time for Duncan. He learns all about tragedy: in the literary sense, through an all-consuming English assignment, and in literal form, as he tries to make sense of the deeply personal recordings left by a former classmate. Despite stall tactics that sometimes mute the impact of Duncan’s discoveries, LaBan’s debut — reminiscent of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why — compassionately illustrates the tragedy of withholding love and friendship, or worse, never having the courage to seek them out. B+

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