Payne—who formed his own press and self-published this novel, his first, in 1993—shoots for Holden Caulfield but winds up with Ferris Bueller in this overly long pastiche of teen clichÇs and YA fantasies. Nick Twisp is a precocious 14-year-old Californian with divorced parents. His floozy mother neglects him, while his equally libidinous father alternately avoids and exploits poor Nick. Naturally, Nick is obsessed with losing his virginity and hopes to do so with the girl of his dreams, Sheeni, a pretentious would-be teen philosopher who longs to run off to Paris. To win her, Nick involves himself in a variety of absurd capers, including: burning down half of Berkeley after jettisoning a trailer stolen from his mother and one of her boyfriends; getting himself thrown out of his mother's house so that he can live with his father and thus be closer to Sheeni (only to see her transfer to a French-speaking school farther away); tricking a naãve girl into drugging Sheeni's roommate; applying for a scholarship to study in India; and finally disappearing, only to reappear in drag so as to be closer to the girl who has grown to hate him because of his increasingly annoying and failed machinations. Payne uses Nick as a vehicle to deliver many funny set-pieces, yet he steamrolls right over anything resembling real emotion, as Nick possesses none of the fallibility or social awareness of other fictional diary-writers—the title character, for instance, of Sue Townsend's much more compelling The Adrian Mole Diaries (1986). Meanwhile, Payne's obvious verbal skills betray him as he tries too hard to impress—``sobriquet,'' ``hirsute virility,'' and ``tumescent loins'' improbably appearing in Nick's very first entry. Payne's talent occasionally peaks through this John Hughes- like romp, but hold out—and hope for—a better, more mature second effort.

Pub Date: April 14, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-47693-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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