Easy entertainment, from a still-imitative writer who may grow.

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HEADLOCK

Berlin debuts with a deft but conventional tale of youth and anger, in a fictional house of toughness resting on a thin psychological foundation.

Dess (short for Odessa) Rose went to college on a wrestling scholarship but blew everything when, after losing a match, he attacked his opponent with a chair. Trigger-tempered Dess got his diploma, but only cloaked in shame, and when we meet him he’s living in Manhattan, parking cars in a garage, and picking barfights—in which he brutalizes, throws, tromps, and smashes his victims, then runs hard through the night until he gets “it” out of him. The “it” is apparently rage he’s stored up from a life of triple woe: having academic parents who think he should do more with himself than wrestle; having a nerdy kid brother praised for straight A’s; and having had a Russian immigrant grandfather who was also a fighter and, via fist and brawn, did legendary good deeds for his grateful family. Sensing no such gratitude now, the strong, angry, wound-licking Dess is the perfect sidekick needed by cousin Gary Rose, the 400-pounder, professional gambler, and other family failure who stops by the garage and talks Dess into heading for Vegas, that very night, via Jaguar. As the two drive cross-country day and night, they reminisce about family and childhood, while gradually the deep trouble Gary’s in comes clear: guaranteed special treatment by thugs if, at the blackjack tables, he can’t earn back a huge debt very fast. Dess is a quick learner at counting cards, a code is agreed on, and the two work the tables, waiting—and waiting—for the “streak” Gary is sure will come. There will be fear, sex, suspense—and mountains of food eaten by Gary at the free buffets—before an ending that will doubtless rivet some while sweeping others back to the popcorn palaces of their youth.

Easy entertainment, from a still-imitative writer who may grow.

Pub Date: May 12, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-266-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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