Vivid but scattered tales of rural Southern life that might have benefited from a stronger edit.



A quiet novel that explores a midcentury community in rural Louisiana.

In Franklin’s debut, the residents of a Catahoula Parish farm brew moonshine, go to church, and spend time in the woods and rivers that surround them. The Britton family—parents John and Maggie, children Snooks, Lil’Ray, Laverne, Jessy Mae, Macey Rae, and Gussie—are a devoutly religious farming clan who are generally good people; neighbor Gator Gattlin and his moonshining colleagues are more villainous. The book is less a unified narrative than it is a series of stories about the various characters as they go about their hard work, lawbreaking, churchgoing, and hunting expeditions. However, this allows Franklin to provide clear snapshots of rural Southern life in the second half of the 20th century. The author renders the local dialect phonetically (“What bidness is it of yourn iffen’ I don’t?”), and has a talent for describing the swamps and fields that his characters spend their time in. There are also some evocative turns of phrase that will draw readers into the well-developed setting: “Like a child writing their name on a frosty windowpane, their sweat created tracks in the dust as it meandered down their backs.” However, much of the writing has an unpolished feel; minor errors are common, including misplaced punctuation and misused homophones in narration, such as “a hansom woman” and “the assent upward.” Most of the characters are white, but several characters of color appear throughout, including African American Britton farmhand George Washington “Milk” Brown and moonshiner Monk Brown. Although racial tensions don’t play a significant role in the story, the many references to “colored” laborers and domestic workers in the narration are jarring. There are discrete subplots within the book, as when Snooks and Lil’Ray set a trap for a corn thief, but little connects them, making the book more of a rumination on the past than a plot-driven novel.

Vivid but scattered tales of rural Southern life that might have benefited from a stronger edit.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4897-2079-5

Page Count: 228

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet