Once readers “get it,” the narrative conceit becomes less interesting—but Hitchcock would have loved the premise.

IN THIS WAY I WAS SAVED

DeLeeuw debuts with a strange tale seething with disturbing psychological overtones.

We first meet Luke through his chance encounter with Daniel on a playground near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At first the boys seem compatible in every way. They’re both imaginative 6-year-olds, comfortable playing games in which dinosaurs come to eat them and they save themselves by shooting the creatures with water guns. At her son’s insistence, Luke’s mother, Claire, agrees to let Daniel visit them in their posh New York apartment. Just as readers begin to wonder why Daniel’s parents never seem to be around and he never seems to have his own home to go to, it becomes clear that Daniel is an imaginary friend who conveniently showed up shortly after the divorce of Luke’s parents. He’s also the narrator of the novel. Eventually Daniel winds up occupying the no-man’s land between doppelgänger and Imp of the Perverse, “persuading” Luke to do heinous things like killing the family dog. It’s clear that Claire has her own problems when she has a breakdown and threatens to cut herself with shards of glass. After Claire is hospitalized, Luke (and Daniel) go to live with Luke’s father and his “new” family, which includes a stepsister Daniel finds thrillingly desirable. As Luke grows up, he cannot shake off the dire influence of Daniel, who becomes increasingly manipulative, forbidding and malevolent. When Luke goes to college, Daniel makes sure he succumbs to the lure of Richard, a charismatic but evil upperclassman who, to put it charitably, does not have Luke’s best interests at heart and soon has him snorting coke. Ultimately, Daniel gains more and more control over Luke, finally committing murder.

Once readers “get it,” the narrative conceit becomes less interesting—but Hitchcock would have loved the premise.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0313-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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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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