The fun of Harbison's (Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger, 2013, etc.) conceit is overshadowed by its clichéd...


A wealthy financier, unhappy with her loveless state, hits her head and wakes up back in high school, with a chance to rewrite her future.

Drinking champagne on a yacht during a party off the coast of Florida, Ramie Phillips knows she has an enviable life. And yet....When a friend announces her pregnancy and best friend Sammy confesses he and his partner are ready to adopt, 38-year-old Ramie wonders how long her job can replace everything else. Drunk and morose, she hits her head while diving overboard and wakes up in the bedroom of her family's Potomac house, 18 again. After the initial shock, Ramie digs into teenage life, now that she knows how it will all turn out. There are the inevitable victories of being 38 in an 18-year-old's body: telling off the mean girls, guilt-free sex with your teenage boyfriend, appreciating youth instead of trying to escape it. And then there's Ramie's father, still alive and well, even though she knows he'll die of a stroke in two years. Ramie isn't very interested in wielding her power (aside from asking her dad to quit smoking or assuring bestie Tanya her latest crush isn't “the one”), focused as she is on her own fears of ending up alone at 38. Instead of breaking up with Brendan as she did the first time she was a teenager, what if she did things differently? The next time she wakes up she's 26 and living an entirely different life than the one she had (no London School of Economics, no brunches in Manhattan) and is instead pregnant—and by all accounts, miserable. But this is not the end of Ramie's journey, which goes somewhere countless other alternate-reality fictions have gone before.

The fun of Harbison's (Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger, 2013, etc.) conceit is overshadowed by its clichéd ending.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04381-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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