A pleasant tale for readers who want a female-centric Harry Potter story.


A young teenager loses her home and employs magic to figure out what went wrong in this debut novel.

Silent “Sie” Lee finds her life in an uproar. First, her guardian and great aunt, Generous, dies under mysterious circumstances. Then, Sie’s mostly absent mother, Mauvaise—who has a covert job the teen suspects involves spying—ships the 14-year-old to live with her rowdy relatives. They exile Sie to the attic and force her to attend a public school where she’s very out of her depth. Little do they know that Sie is used to a different world altogether. At Gen’s, the teen would come and go via the house’s side door into a Boston of old, with horse-drawn carriages, curiosity shops, and, most importantly, the Girl’s Academy of Latin and Alchemy, where Sie learns the ways of magic. With public school out for the summer and Sie’s relatives on vacation, the plucky teen employs the help of classmate Raahi—who has literal “tunnel vision” and an enthusiasm for books and learning—to discover what exactly happened to Gen and why Sie’s mother is now selling the house. Judging from the long author’s note at the end of the book, Hiam is very passionate about Boston and the magically realistic history he has created around it. The Harry Potter–like Sie is intelligent and resourceful—she is determined to find out what happened to her beloved great aunt and devoted to her spellcasting studies—and Raahi is an appealing, affable sidekick. The author’s dialogue tends toward the stiff (Gen says “Tut tut” more than once) and awkward. At one point, a school secretary comments on Sie’s last name, saying, “I’d expected she’d be Korean or Chinese.” In addition, Sie seems more confused (by everything from debit cards to milkshakes) than is realistic for someone who’s lived in the modern world for a few months by now. Still, the novel is short, digestible, and adventurous but not too dark, ideal for teens transitioning to middle-grade novels. 

A pleasant tale for readers who want a female-centric Harry Potter story.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63558-011-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Webster Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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