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WHY CAN'T RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE PIZZA?

From the The Pizza Chronicles series , Vol. 3

A coming-of-age novel focused on its endearing narrator’s introspection rather than typical teenage drama.

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Set in Boston, Roamer’s third installment in a series stars a gentle, queer teenager who’s full of questions.

Picking up after the first two books, Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza (2020) and Why Can’t Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza (2020), Roamer continues to follow his 15-year-old narrator, RV, into his sophomore year at the prestigious Boston Latin School. Everything in RV’s life seems uneasy at the moment. He’s no longer in the class of his mentor, Mr. Aniso. His best friend Carole is too wrapped up in her crush on a French boy to pay him much attention. His parents’ fights are only getting worse. And, most troubling of all, his friendship with Bobby—the handsome African American jock with whom he shared his first same-sex kiss—has not been the same since Bobby joined varsity football. To cope, RV drowns his teenage sorrows in cheese slices at Joe’s Pizza, his local haunt. He also strikes up a new friendship with Mark, a born-again Christian who first seems only interested in ogling their exotic Spanish teacher, Señorita Sánchez, but slowly reveals surprising depth. RV continues to grapple with his sexuality as LGBTQ+ issues come up around him at home, at school, and in the news, but his exact feelings on whether he’s really gay and how that fits with his Catholic upbringing remain elusive. Roamer’s characters tend to speak a little too earnestly for believable modern-day teenagers. (“Knowing you’re cheering for me will give me even more motivation,” Bobby says stiffly, without any sense of irony or flirtation at one point.) However, RV’s inner monologue feels fluid and endearingly neurotic, and Roamer excels at narrating the book’s most emotional moments. An intriguing potential love triangle seems inevitable, but this story is all about youthful apprehension and hesitation. Some readers might be frustrated with RV’s (and thus the book’s) slow progress, but by focusing on subtler plot points, RV comes to terms with issues of sex, religion, and race at his own pace.

A coming-of-age novel focused on its endearing narrator’s introspection rather than typical teenage drama.

Pub Date: April 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64890-171-3

Page Count: 283

Publisher: NineStar Press

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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