A coming-of-age story with plenty of sting, where love is not only blind, but it blindsides.

COLIN PRESTON ROCKED AND ROLLED

Murray charts a lustily tormented story of first love and heartbreak.

It’s September 1985 in the bosky precincts of Elerby University (though it conveys the intimacy of a small liberal arts college) in upstate New York. Colin is entering his sophomore year with a lousy love life and a lousy relationship with his father, but he does have a good friend in Karl (a handsome natural athlete who has a way with women) and in the Beatles—“when you love a band so much that its songs fill the empty spaces inside your head and heart.” But along comes Jasmine, a serious dish with lips like butter, who really gets inside Colin’s head and steals his heart. Murray’s writing is phonetic; Colin’s voice lifts from the page—young and inexperienced, star-crossed and love-lost, which will come true soon enough as Jasmine drops him like a load of bricks and proceeds, that very afternoon, to have sex with Karl, into whose room Colin charges without knocking, looking for commiseration and finding betrayal: “‘Yes! Yes! Don’t stop’…the girl demanded loudly. Her voice sounded familiar.” Murray draws Colin with immediate emotional pungency, and he doesn’t lose the beat even when the situations turn slapstick. Nor does he tidy Colin up, rather letting him sink into a great morass of self-pity from which he must drag his own sorry butt toward whatever measure of salvation a decent, immature young man can find. Yes, the Beatles do offer the solace of shared experience, of meaning and even a little direction, but it is Colin’s slowly gathering circle of friends—a very human society of odd fellows, including a dorm-cellar-dwelling delusional, a dark and mysterious Spanish professor on the run from her demons, big-hearted Big Ty and sweet Liz—who help illuminate the road ahead. Some of the sex scenes carry informational overload, but even then it is more humorous than cringing, perhaps even another epiphany that Colin collects: “There was no disappointment with Twinkies. You knew exactly what you were getting. Unlike Jasmine. Unlike love. Unlike life.”

A coming-of-age story with plenty of sting, where love is not only blind, but it blindsides.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1439275306

Page Count: 256

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2011

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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