An initially promising horror tale that unfortunately lacks suspense until nearly its end.

The House on Dead Boy Lane

In Johnson’s debut thriller, a 13-year-old boy and his next-door neighbor investigate an evil house.

In the summer of 1996, young Derek Hall has just moved to Tanner’s Ridge, N.C., with his divorced mother, Elaine. He’s instantly intrigued by his pretty neighbor, 13-year-old Alex Kramer, but after he befriends her, he feels the wrath of her jealous boyfriend, Tony Warner, who torments him at school. As a result, Alex breaks up with Tony, which only fuels his fury, and she and Derek become girlfriend and boyfriend. The two explore the House on Dead Boy Lane, a creepy local structure with a history of violence. Numerous people have died or disappeared within its walls, yet they and other local teens, including Alex’s friend Valerie; Valerie’s boyfriend, Dan; and Derek’s best friend, Chucky Wilson, can’t resist its pull. Alex cuts herself during a visit to the house, leaving traces of blood behind, and she’s soon beset by increasingly bizarre nightmares—as if the house is reaching out to her. The book begins well, chronicling the house’s history and spotlighting the curious subbasement where a young boy was once butchered; unfortunately, the prologue spoils what might have later been an effective reveal. Derek’s mom adequately fills the role of clueless parent, and other characters are entertaining, such as a quirky bus driver who claims to make beef jerky using “the meat of kids” he’s run over. However, despite several unsettling events involving his girlfriend, Derek goes on about his life, watching scary flicks, listening to cool music and playing video games, when he should be more frightened. The story pulses with suspense in the last few pages, but readers may find the final resolution disturbing and depressing. The book’s excessive references to works by horror masters such as Stephen King and filmmaker John Carpenter also detract from the pacing and overall tone.

An initially promising horror tale that unfortunately lacks suspense until nearly its end.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491834183

Page Count: 490

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: April 16, 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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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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