A YEAR FOR KRISTINE

A SECRET LIFE

Lucas’ novel, Part 1 in a three-part series, tells of a young woman’s coming-of-age in the 1960s.
Kristine Harmon may be young, beautiful and quick with a gun (due to frequent hunting and shooting range trips with her father), but her small-town life is far from easy. With a controlling father who regularly rapes her and a largely indifferent mother, Kristine’s existence is a nightmare. As one character puts it, “Her father is crazy and her mother doesn’t seem to give a shit.” However, when fellow high school marching band member Daniel steps into the picture, Kristine’s lonely suffering begins to diminish. Daniel may not be as smart or athletic as many of the boys in the town of New Castle, but he’s kind and gentle with Kristine. As the two build a relationship together, Kristine’s father becomes outraged; as the respected local police chief, he’s free to express his outrage in any way he sees fit. What can a poor boy like Daniel—with his hardworking mother and his shellshocked father—do against a villain as powerful as Kristine’s father? How will Kristine survive the torment and, judging by the number of guns in circulation in this small town, the violence that is to follow? Successful in creating a truly menacing antagonist, the novel takes a serious angle on the woes of being a teenager. Kristine’s father is, after all, not merely manipulative; he’s legitimately evil. Kristine’s survival provides an intriguing conflict that calls for both external support and inner strength. Dipping occasionally into high school clichés—“We just started dating and I like you very much. I don’t know if I could stand to leave you at the end of the summer”—the novel culminates in a bloody scene that hardly spells the end of Kristine’s troubles. Readers will be eager to see how one teenage girl’s unimaginable situation turns out.

Engaging teen turmoil that only rarely slips into cliché.

Pub Date: May 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477434901

Page Count: 226

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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