Salinger's Catcher remains the gold standard. Crazy is only another imitation.

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CRAZY

Shades of Holden Caulfield in the wicked city, on the lam from Pencey Prep.

That's pretty much the story of this already famous first novel by a German teenager (born in 1982 yet), which has inexplicably been hailed in his country's press as ``a thoroughly amazing and wonderful book'' (Der Spiegel). It isn't. It's the firstperson tale (narrated in present tense and in short, punchy sentences and sentence fragments) of a 16yearold disabled boy named ``Benjamin Lebert'' who is partially paralyzed—and, hence, understandably enough, an academic underachiever who is sent to boarding school (ostensibly to repeat ninth grade; actually to be protected from the spectacle of his parents' marriage collapsing). Benjamin might be a more engaging character if he and his schoolmates (including Fat Felix, depressive Troy, and Benjamin's romanticfool roommate, Janosch) were less generic and their ``adventures'' less derivative. A hopeful visit to a sex therapist, for example, falls woefully flat. A raid on the girls' dorm is both attenuated and thinly described (though Benjamin does lose his virginity). A willfully ``crazy'' afterhours trip to nearby Munich—where Benjamin and his pals bond with a clean old man who gets them admitted (quite unbelievably) to a strip joint—never manages to be as madcap as Lebert seemingly intends, because the boys' moony animadversions on the subjects of Life, God, and Sex are unfortunately both redundant and banal. Only very occasionally does an impudent insight rear its head (``Life's too complicated.''/``Yes, . . . but girls are hot''). If you keep reminding yourself its author is barely 18, Crazy becomes, barely, tolerable. The novel simply traverses ground we've been over too many times already and makes far too little of its protagonist's potential uniqueness.

Salinger's Catcher remains the gold standard. Crazy is only another imitation.

Pub Date: April 21, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-40913-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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