Limited in thrills though extensive in detail, a worthy contribution to the coming-of-age genre.


The Do-Nothing

A debut coming-of-age novel about a teenager in East Texas.

Presuming that he has killed his father after pushing him into a handrail, teenager John Sharpe is on the run. Racing his beloved Porsche 914 away from his hometown of Texarkana, he finds himself in a panic. Though his relationship with his father was strained, he didn’t mean to kill him. Or did he? What John doesn’t know (though readers soon learn) is that John’s father, Chip, isn’t dead; he is merely perturbed that his only son would leave him in such a state without so much as calling an ambulance. As John goes about his escape, Chip keeps tabs as best he can from the sidelines, often making use of connections ranging from the local sheriff to folks at a country club in Galveston. Meanwhile, John learns things he might never have dreamt of in his upper-middle-class upbringing. From the monotony of road construction to the seedier side of a Texas megachurch, the world, he discovers, is difficult and often violent. Will John manage on his own or will he go insane believing that he has killed his father? Can father and son ever reconcile? Notable for its detailed locations, the story incorporates allusions ranging from the history of Galveston to the high school football–obsessed culture of Texas. John proves likable enough, though not always as interesting as the places around him. Young and inexperienced in dull, difficult tasks, his internal reflections don’t always come across as terribly compelling, as when he considers the tediousness of a road construction task: “We live in a slow moving, never varying buffer zone of powdery dirt and roots. A moving prison.” Despite the suspense being diminished somewhat by the fact that, early on, readers know Chip isn’t dead, the memorable story shines best with regards to geography (not many coming-of-age road stories bother with New Boston, Texas) and character (John’s great ambition is to become a professional tennis player).

Limited in thrills though extensive in detail, a worthy contribution to the coming-of-age genre.

Pub Date: May 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615980232

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Rabbitboy Books

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?