A transgressive thriller from the author of Hey, Joe (1996), describing the troubles of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who’s taken up by rich friends and given a brutal introduction to life in the fast lane. Drew Burke is a poor boy from New Orleans who won a scholarship and headed east to study at Johns Hopkins. There, he met Bahar Richards, and she and Drew quickly become best friends. Bahar is smart, chic—and utterly manipulative. Although her relations with Drew are not wholly platonic, she’s instrumental in hooking him up with her bisexual brother Jake, and she watches over their budding relationship with all the self-satisfaction of a confirmed matchmaker. While he finds their life of privilege easy to adapt to, Drew has to admit that he doesn—t know these people very well, and when Jake hands him a sheaf of newspaper clippings and tells him that he loves him and wants him to know all about “what happened,” Drew quickly discovers that he’s gotten into something way over his head. Apparently, years before, Jake and his friend Troy were tried for the rape and murder of Allison Myers, a poor girl from a local high school. Jake pleaded innocent and was acquitted, but there are still enough loose ends about the case to give Drew pause—especially as Bahar refuses to discuss it with him. As he tries to sort out the mystery of Allison’s death, Drew finds himself confronted with the far greater enigma of Jake and Bahar’s lives. Are they what they seem to be? And just what do they want from Drew? Soon enough, Drew discovers that his story is not one of social climbing, but sheer survival. The author’s annoying use of, like, MTV English and his Brett Easton Ellis—ish obsession with brand names (just what is the difference between a BMW 318ti and a BMW 540i?) can—t suffocate this chilling and delightfully lurid tale—though at times it’s touch-and-go. (Author tour/NPR satellite tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-15691-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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