A suspenseful tale that stands out in a crowded genre.



From the Leftover Girl series , Vol. 2

Jessica Delaney returns in this second entry in author/engineer Bolick’s (The Leftover Girl, 2016) Alabama-set YA paranormal series.   

With her cousins Bailey and Pade Sanders exiled to their father’s house in Colorado and her suspected biological brother Chase further away, Jessica accepts Rachelle Whitman’s invitation to go to the lake for the day. She loses track of time and neglects to bring the powerful sunscreen that her parents always make her apply. But Jessica’s resulting sunburn doesn’t just make her skin red—it puts her in a two-month coma. Finally released right before the first day of school, Jessica just wants her life to go back to normal, but everything seems to have changed: former bully Tosh Henley is now nice, and new student Brianna is hassling Rachelle; meanwhile, just-returned Pade has quit football, making him the school pariah. Also, Joe, the new guy in Jessica’s history class, somehow reminds her of Chase, although he looks and acts nothing like him. When Joe suddenly disappears, everyone claims that he never existed—and that they thought that Jessica was talking to herself in history class. As her dreams and flashbacks increase, she learns staggering truths about Pade and Bailey. Meanwhile, as the adopted Jessica tries to discover whether her true name is Jessica Naples or Kayden Ray, her father’s health once again becomes precarious. This second series installment replaces exaggerated angst with suspense, making it far superior to the first. This time around, Bolick strikes the perfect balance of action, description, dialogue, and introspection. Readers’ eagerness to learn what happens next overcomes the book’s minor shortcomings, such as the many character introductions when Jessica goes back to school. A few subplots seem irrelevant here, particularly Jessica’s friend Angel’s romance, but they could possibly become integral to the next book. This novel ties up many loose ends from the last one, but it doesn’t function well as a stand-alone novel, so new readers should be sure to read the first in the series.  

A suspenseful tale that stands out in a crowded genre.  

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-946089-03-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dirt Road Books

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2017

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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