A well-pitched, beautifully written book, dark in content but not in feel.

LIFELINE

A teenager battles drug addiction in Nash’s debut novel.

Eighteen-year-old Eli is at a high point in his life. He’s captain of the lacrosse team, the most popular kid in his school, and has a picture-perfect girlfriend by his side. Yet, even as the first game of the season moves toward triumph, all is not well: the thrill never lasts; the high is not real. Eli lives with his mom, stepdad, and half brother, but he’s long been unhappy at home, and he’s been turning to heroin as a way to cope. An overdose lands him in rehab—and then the real story begins. Over 28 days, Eli must confront his addiction and come to terms with the loss of his father. Although he’s unwilling, at first, to acknowledge that he even has a problem, he slowly, through interactions with an ex–drug-dealer counselor and the other patients at the clinic, begins to open up. He starts looking for the truth in his life, and as he finds himself strangely drawn to a girl who self-harms, he wonders if there might just be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. The danger with a story such as Eli’s is that it can be overly grim or preachy. Nash avoids this and instead strikes just the right balance between realism and relatability. The plot is straightforward but not generic, and the characters are distinct without being clichéd or over-the-top. The dialogue never feels artificial, and Eli’s narration, written in the present-tense first-person, makes him a protagonist that teens will identify with. His take on life seems very much his own (not the author’s or the readers’ parents’), and events at the clinic play out with a momentum that reflects his increasing engagement with rehabilitation. Nash, in short, has pulled off a remarkable feat, taking a topic of great relevance and—without a hint of censure or denunciation—making it integral to a tale whose only demand is that it be read in one sitting.

A well-pitched, beautifully written book, dark in content but not in feel.

Pub Date: April 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-946501-06-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Tiny Fox Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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