An entertaining and insightful tale that readers of all ages will savor.

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SURVIVING MINIMIZED

In White’s (Windows on the World, 2011, etc.) YA sci-fi adventure, a 13-year-old boy and his father escape a dystopian world by joining a community of tiny people.

Young Zert Cage, in Low City DC in 2083, earns respect by engaging in trash wars with other teens on the streets. This involves the use of garbage-propelling rifles, which gets him arrested for felony vandalism. His widower father, Jack, is already worried about the latest epidemic of Superpox. Jack received his vaccination when it was affordable, but he can’t afford the current price of vaccinating Zert. Now, he fears that his son will be put in “Teen-Jail” for anywhere from six months to 20 years. The only solution, it seems, comes from Jack’s brother-in-law, Marin Bluegar, a celebrity due to his appearances on the adventure holoshow New Worlds. Marin wants Jack and Zert to take part in a top-secret project in which they’ll undergo a process called “minimizing,” which will shrink them to the size of thumbs. They have to leave everything in their old lives behind, but as a result, Zert will get vaccinated and avoid incarceration. Sadly, adjusting to life in a small settlement of shrunken people called Paradise proves difficult, due to its insect-based cuisine and locals who ostracize newcomers. At the center of White’s absorbing story is a teen who doesn’t fit in; for example, Zert’s peers in Paradise were born there, so they’ve never had electricity and don’t believe the boy’s accounts of amazing technology. The author also adds an element of suspense with the constant threat of the community kicking Jack and Zert out, as they only have three weeks to prove their worth. The novel even supplies a touch of mystery, as well; it turns out that Marin may have withheld information regarding the minimizing project, and Paradise residents often mention Abbot, the last outsider they banished. Along the way, White ably details the giant insects of Paradise, both as potential dangers and as ingredients in delicacies such as cricket soup. The occasional animal hybrids are delightful, too—especially a “bassetduck” that “quarks.”

An entertaining and insightful tale that readers of all ages will savor.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63299-194-2

Page Count: 266

Publisher: River Grove Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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