The stakes have never been higher in Pack’s inventive epic.

Second Chronicles of Illumination

Pack’s encore batch of riveting adventures about an interdimensional library system.

In Chronicles: The Library of Illumination (2014), readers met Johanna Charette and Jackson Roth, teens who co-curate a library where the subjects of books can enter the real world. In their first five adventures, the two faced increasingly complex situations that tested their inquisitiveness and loyalty to each other. This second volume reprints the fifth story, “Portals,” to reintroduce audiences to the 13 Libraries of Illumination set on different worlds, including Romantica, Scientico, Terroria, and Fantasia (Earth). The next entry, “The Overseers,” brings the teens to Lumina, the prime library realm, where Johanna’s mentor, Mal, is tested for a position in the College of Overseers, which runs the library system. Competing against Mal is Terroria’s horridly ambitious Nero 51 (introduced in “Portals”). “Myrddin’s Memoir,” a novella-length sequel, sees a book arrive on Johanna’s desk that proves to be the legendary wizard Merlin’s diary of spells. The wizard projects himself through the open volume and explains to Johanna that someone wants to steal his work and must be stopped at all costs. The collection ends with a preview of “Escape to Mysteriose,” the next story in Pack’s deftly expanding universe. As in the first Chronicles, the relationship between 18-year-old Johanna and slightly younger Jackson is grounded in light romance and sarcasm; when he suggests he’s one of a kind, she replies, “We can only hope.” Pack’s prose is lucid and tight, especially when explaining the libraries’ logistics: “This is a Library of Illumination. When the information kept here disappears, the contents of [citizens’] personally owned literature and documents will vanish.” Nero 51, meanwhile, is a master manipulator who lies as steadily as a heart beats; he also smells like “a chemical factory built in a field of rotting flesh.” Pack’s aptitude for spinning plots major (time travel) and minor (Pru Tellerence’s missing child) continues to make this a singularly engaging series.

The stakes have never been higher in Pack’s inventive epic.

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0991542857

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Artiqua Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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

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THE VANISHING HALF

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

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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