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ROWL ROLE ROLL YOUR WEIGH

SUMMER OF 1969: A JOURNEY OF MANY DIMENSIONS

An intriguing, if overlong, story of a fun-loving guy’s quest for understanding.

Whelihan offers a rollicking historical YA novel about a cross-country road trip in 1969.

High school graduate Brian Hamner wants to have a summer adventure before he gets serious about his future. His plan is to travel south from Minnesota across the United States in a leisurely manner, before eventually ending up in Florida where his aunt and uncle live. Brian hopes for more than just a good time, and his chances of this look good when his parents send him off in a new Volkswagen van; he’s hoping to meet people who, like him, struggle with dysgraphia, a learning disorder that affects one’s ability to write. With Steppenwolf blaring on the radio and various things on his mind, including the Vietnam draft, a high school sweetheart, and the possibility of going to college in the fall, he sets off on a road trip that leads him on a series of adventures. From the get-go, this first-person narrative, which includes a series of journal entries, is riddled with misspelled words, similar to what a dysgraphic writer might write. About graduation night, Brian notes that “Our souperintendent is calling out names” and compares the chair on which he’s sitting to “a piece of pliewould.” This style becomes tedious at times, but it’s used in an intriguing way; it becomes less prevalent as Brian learns strategies to live with the disorder, which gives readers a realistic sense of his experience. As a character, Brian feels a bit emotionally flat, but he has a delightful sense of humor, as when he calls troublesome words that sound alike “homophones or homophonies if they aren’t real werds.” The book is somewhat overloaded with dialogue, but a few of the teachers that the protagonist meets on the road—including a sightless hot dog vendor and a talking raven, whom Brian meets while smoking a “doobee” by the river—deliver some important insights. A classic 1960s rock soundtrack keeps things rolling along, and Whelihan kindly includes a list of these tunes for interested readers.

An intriguing, if overlong, story of a fun-loving guy’s quest for understanding.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66780-553-5

Page Count: 310

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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