An adroitly conceived series opener that’s tailored to action fans.

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BEAR COMPANY

From the Dark Corps series , Vol. 1

In this middle-grade novel, artificially intelligent teddy bears protect the son of a kidnapped scientist.

Dr. Peter Barnes is being held against his will in a secret lab beneath the Arctic tundra. His kidnappers—referred to as “government agents”—know that he’s mathematically proven the existence of other dimensions besides our own. They want him to create a portal to one of those dimensions, and they’re willing to harm Peter’s 10-year-old son, Timmy, if he doesn’t cooperate. Timmy, whose mother died four years ago, is an excellent student—in large part because his and his father’s frequent moves have kept him from having a social life. Peter often takes work-related trips, leaving Timmy with a nanny. He’s never been gone for a month before, however, and the new nanny, Ms. Gertrude, isn’t too friendly. In captivity, Peter creates a blue-lit portal that releases hundreds of monstrous, shadowy beings, led by an imposing entity named Total Dark, who wants to rule our dimension. Total Dark, who’s also capable of absorbing other objects and using them as weapons, detects that Peter has a son. It sends its minions after Timmy in order to coerce the doctor into opening an even larger portal so that thousands more shadows may cross over. In response, Peter remotely activates Bear Company—five robotic teddy bears in his house, each programmed with a different specialty to protect Timmy. For his debut novel, Alexander launches a smart, action-oriented middle-grade series that’s designed to keep kids’ attention. His flair for fun description pops up in lines such as “this underground base…makes Area 51 look like a candy shop.” Vocabulary words, such as “rendezvous,” are defined in context and spelled phonetically (“ron-day-voo”) to boost the educational experience. Timmy also refreshingly uses a library—not just the internet—to begin his search for his father. The bears are color-coded and have names such as Bruiser and Sneak, which emphasize their capabilities. Adults may also notice Alexander’s cleverness in naming the humorous medical bear “Patch,” after famous real-life physician Hunter “Patch” Adams.

An adroitly conceived series opener that’s tailored to action fans.

Pub Date: July 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9991138-1-3

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Bickering Owls Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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