Polly isn’t boring, but her romantic angst is—and that’s the author’s unfortunate focus.


An insecure teenager meanders her way through a series of boyfriends in the 1980s, in Bryant’s debut.

Polly Clark is awkwardly growing up in Reston, Va., a quiet suburb of Washington, D.C. filled with community centers and shopping malls. As a perky sixth-grader, she is randomly picked to join the drill team, but quits when she realizes that she’d rather make out with the quiet boy from her social-studies class. That move seems to be the catalyst for her grand social change—Polly morphs in a matter of pages from a sweet, nerdy girl in purple corduroys to an angst-ridden teen dressed in all black. Her next experimentation with boys comes in the form of Jason, a future high-school drop-out who seduces her on a snow day and then, after an awkward bout of first sex, leaves her a misspelled break-up note in her locker. Following Jason is Mike, a clumsy cartoonist who requests blowjobs in between bong hits in his bedroom. Joey is next, the requisite older man, who breaks Polly’s heart when she realizes that she isn’t his only girlfriend. Though Polly appears to grow up when she gets to college, she falls into the arms of yet another wrong man and her grades slip, alienating her parents. The darker, more interesting subtext is that Polly’s perfect suburban family is anything but. Her father lives in North Carolina and uses the money from his minimum-wage job to pay for his booze rather than her child support, which allows her cold and disapproving stepfather, William, to adopt her against her will. Finally, after a traumatic incident during a trip home, Polly returns to college, where she discovers a latent interest in art and finds that, for the first time, she has something larger to motivate her—though she still, disappointingly, doesn’t seem quite confident until she finds a boyfriend.

Polly isn’t boring, but her romantic angst is—and that’s the author’s unfortunate focus.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-089804-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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