A bleak book with a sympathetic protagonist.

READ REVIEW

Daddy Will Fix It

A debut novel about the trials and tribulations of a gifted, sensitive boy growing up in the bleak, unforgiving environment of the Virginia Mountains.

Samuel, or “Sammy,” is a very kind, sensitive boy growing up near Oreville, Virginia, in the middle of the 20th century. His family is poor, and a slew of troubled characters affect his life, including his cruel, hateful grandfather Luke and his alcoholic, racist uncle Earl. Despite the family’s difficult circumstances, Sammy is a sympathetic, understanding child who’s better able to recognize peoples’ feelings and desires than most adults in his world. Holmes’ novel chronicles the story of Sammy growing up and explores his quest to win affection and attention from people who are supposed to love him—particularly his dad, Red, who’s especially put off by the odd, artistic little boy. It also relates the story of the boy’s eventual bonding with his maternal and paternal grandmothers, who recognize that there’s “something more than special about him, way, way more than special” and help him see that he has his own worth, as well as a future. By the end of the book, Sammy is finally able to physically escape Virginia and attend art school in New York City, but the author leaves readers questioning whether he can ever really transcend the terrible, haunting trauma of his past. Ultimately, Holmes creates a very likable character in Sammy, who’s tender and compassionate to everyone in the world around him. He also crafts vivid, lifelike villains who are easy to hate but also recognizable as humans with flaws. However, despite the plethora of well-developed characters, the book suffers from being overwhelmingly depressing. In the end, the story simply feels like a catalog of terrible things that happen to a kind, young man throughout his life, rather than one with logical twists and turns, which makes for a disheartening read.

A bleak book with a sympathetic protagonist. 

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4809-1872-6

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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