Breezy with substance; an absorbing summer read.

INVINCIBLE SUMMER

Adams’ sensitive debut follows a tightknit quartet of college friends as they navigate their shifting relationships—and evolving identities—over the course of two decades.

After graduating from university in Bristol, Benedict, Eva, Sylvie, and Sylvie’s brother, Lucien (technically not a student but a group member nonetheless), are on the cusp of their futures. Eva, a quietly rebellious physics grad, is poised to start a fancy finance job in London. Benedict—posh, studious, and in love with her—is staying on for a Ph.D. Artistic and free-spirited, Sylvie is off to travel for a year with Lucien, a caddish playboy who has long monopolized Eva’s romantic attentions. The world seems alight with possibility; their bond feels unshakable. But as the years pass, and the disappointments of adulthood accumulate, the ties that once bound them begin to fray. Once, they hiked through Spain together; as they approach their 30s, they meet occasionally for distracted lunches and harried drinks. Their lives don’t look the way they’d imagined they would: despite her talent, Sylvie isn’t famous; despite their connection, Benedict and Eva haven’t ended up together. And then—one personal crisis at a time—the four friends find their ways back to each other, forging new relationships that are deeper and more complicated than the ones they’d had at school. Adams doesn’t stray far from convention here, but it hardly matters: her characters are nearly impossible not to root for, and she captures their often troubled dynamics with tremendous empathy and charming wit. And while the novel wraps up just a touch too neatly—the resolution isn’t quite as much fun as the struggle—there is something pleasantly satisfying about its profound sense of hope.

Breezy with substance; an absorbing summer read.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-39117-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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