A somewhat standard, if rousing, supernatural tale combined with a gleefully eccentric teenage romance.

Opaque

From the Scion Saga series , Vol. 1

In Leigh-Reign’s debut sci-fi thriller, a teenage misanthrope questions his disturbing proclivities and even his origin after he becomes inexplicably captivated by a new girl at school.

Californian Adam Caspian definitely isn’t a typical 16-year-old. He spends his days sexually desiring his mother, JoAnn, and hating people in general, often referring to them as “animals.” He’s able to subdue these tendencies enough to function socially—although he might have had something to do with the disappearance of a local grocery clerk. However, he’s thoroughly unprepared for Carly Wit, a new student at his high school who doesn’t repulse him; in fact, he can’t stop thinking about her. Carly is definitely peculiar; for example, the dark rings around the irises of her eyes sometimes turn crimson, and at one point, a bump on her forehead, due to an errant football, mysteriously disappears the next day. It turns out that there’s plenty that Adam doesn’t know about Carly—or about himself. He decides to look into his own background after he also rapidly recovers from a serious accident. He soon discovers that he may actually be Russian, like Carly, and that they’re both descended from lineages with a rare, powerful genetic mutation. They also have other relatives with supernatural abilities, collectively called Iksha, who once held their ancestors captive. As Adam slowly learns about his own capabilities, he exposes secrets involving his parents and others. But is there enough light in Carly to save him, or will his darkness engulf them both? Despite the fact that the novel has teenage protagonists, it’s certainly not aimed at readers of that age. Adam, for example, revels in, rather than represses, his Oedipus complex, even believing that he and JoAnn furtively share a mutual attraction. He’s an indelible character, though—an unhinged young man who, by the time he’s partnered with Carly, becomes a convincing romantic lead. This transformation is surprising, but it works because Leigh-Reign delves into his dense back story, which largely explains his darker impulses. Adam is also shown to genuinely care for Carly, who’s a strong character on her own. The book’s second half more closely resembles a YA tale, as it concentrates on the suspense of a lurking enemy and paranormal confrontations.

A somewhat standard, if rousing, supernatural tale combined with a gleefully eccentric teenage romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9979239-8-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Nnylluc Book Group

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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