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I THINK I LOVE YOU

Big-hearted exploration of the bittersweet pleasures of unrequited love.

Welsh teenager obsessed with pop star David Cassidy finally gets an opportunity to meet her idol, 24 years later than expected.

In 1974, with his bell-bottom catsuits, shaggy hair and come-hither green eyes, Partridge Family star David Cassidy is everything to awkward 13-year-old Petra Williams. She loves him with the near-hysterical devotion shared by many of her contemporaries. A smart girl, Petra gets little emotional support from her strict, German-born mother Greta. She prefers the house of her best friend Sharon, a boisterous, sweet-natured classmate who is almost as besotted with David as she is. Their world, with its emotional highs and lows, is little understood by adults, with one exception. Bill Finn is a young editor at The Essential David Cassidy Magazine. Not only does his work make him privy to the secret world of teenage girls, he actually is David, at least in print. His ghostwritten monthly “letters” from the star stir the fans, while embarrassing the author, who does not have the heart to even tell his girlfriend what he does. Like Petra, he is present at the singer’s notoriously crowded London “farewell” concert, during which 750 girls ended up needing medical treatment. After that, Petra starts to grow out of her infatuation, becoming an accomplished music therapist with a teenaged daughter of her own. But after separating from her husband, she goes through her late mother’s things and discovers something Greta had long kept from her. Back in the '70s, Petra had won a contest giving her the chance to meet David. Overcome with conflicting emotions, she tries to claim her prize, and lucks out when Bill Finn gets wind of her story. Now the successful (and single) head of a magazine group, he arranges a dream trip to Las Vegas for Petra and Sharon to finally meet the singer. He tags along, nursing a crush of his own. Witty and engaging, Pearson’s follow-up to the bestselling I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002) skillfully captures the overwrought emotions of youth, as well as their more subtle but no less ardent adult counterparts.

Big-hearted exploration of the bittersweet pleasures of unrequited love.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4235-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES

Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Hunter’s debut novel tracks the experiences of her family members during the Holocaust.

Sol and Nechuma Kurc, wealthy, cultured Jews in Radom, Poland, are successful shop owners; they and their grown children live a comfortable lifestyle. But that lifestyle is no protection against the onslaught of the Holocaust, which eventually scatters the members of the Kurc family among several continents. Genek, the oldest son, is exiled with his wife to a Siberian gulag. Halina, youngest of all the children, works to protect her family alongside her resistance-fighter husband. Addy, middle child, a composer and engineer before the war breaks out, leaves Europe on one of the last passenger ships, ending up thousands of miles away. Then, too, there are Mila and Felicia, Jakob and Bella, each with their own share of struggles—pain endured, horrors witnessed. Hunter conducted extensive research after learning that her grandfather (Addy in the book) survived the Holocaust. The research shows: her novel is thorough and precise in its details. It’s less precise in its language, however, which frequently relies on cliché. “You’ll get only one shot at this,” Halina thinks, enacting a plan to save her husband. “Don’t botch it.” Later, Genek, confronting a routine bit of paperwork, must decide whether or not to hide his Jewishness. “That form is a deal breaker,” he tells himself. “It’s life and death.” And: “They are low, it seems, on good fortune. And something tells him they’ll need it.” Worse than these stale phrases, though, are the moments when Hunter’s writing is entirely inadequate for the subject matter at hand. Genek, describing the gulag, calls the nearest town “a total shitscape.” This is a low point for Hunter’s writing; elsewhere in the novel, it’s stronger. Still, the characters remain flat and unknowable, while the novel itself is predictable. At this point, more than half a century’s worth of fiction and film has been inspired by the Holocaust—a weighty and imposing tradition. Hunter, it seems, hasn’t been able to break free from her dependence on it.

Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-56308-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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