Less a coming-of-ager than a wandering tale that somehow misses its mark.


A likable, though conventional, first novel traces the growing pains of a tall girl from Texas.

Even as a child Taylor feels different, and it isn’t only her string-bean height (she eventually grows to six feet two) that sets her apart from the other kids in Houston. Quiet and observant, she comes to an early realization that her family is poor, her parents hate each other, and most people aren’t worth the time of day (though her young misanthropy may be related to her mother’s casual drunkenness and her father’s penchant for building model cars as a way of escaping his family.) Older brother J.J. surprises everyone by working his way through college, inspiring Taylor that there may be a life beyond waitressing and strip malls. She leaves home shortly after her father does (he’s gay and wants to spend the rest of his life driving big rigs), goes to college, and moves in with her mythology professor—or, as she learns to call him, Jeff. Jeff wants to play Henry Higgins, which is fine with Taylor, who gets a real home for the first time in her life. After Jeff dumps her (“Sweetheart, you couldn’t have expected us to go on forever”), Taylor drops out and begins to apprentice under Joe, a master carpenter. Finally happy, Taylor meets the man of her dreams—literally. J.J.’s old college roommate Luther has been fueling Taylor’s fantasies for years, and now, in the flesh, he’s as good as her teenage memories promised. The two fall in love, move to New York, begin to fall out of love. Newcomer Day creates a sufficiently inviting study of character here, but a certain aimlessness (note title) sedates the overall effect, making the conclusion—a happily-ever-after wrap-up—seem simply another event on the list of Taylor’s life.

Less a coming-of-ager than a wandering tale that somehow misses its mark.

Pub Date: March 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-2332-2

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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