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THE ROME OF FALL

A highly readable and occasionally nostalgia-inducing novel about moving on from high school—or not.

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An ex–rock star returns to teach English at his Alabama high school in this YA novel from Gibbs, the author of Two Like Me And You (2019).

After his father runs off with his secretary, Marcus Brinks moves with his mother from Texas back to her hometown in Alabama, forcing him to complete his senior year at Rome High School. There, in homeroom, he meets fellow Weezer-enthusiast Jackson Crowder. Marcus thinks he’s found a friend—and maybe even a band mate—in a high school that really cares only about football. Cut to 23 years later. It’s Marcus’ first day again at Rome High School, but now he’s an English teacher. In the intervening years he was the singer/songwriter of the indie rock band Dear Brutus, whose first record sold a half million copies (though, as he’s quick to tell his students, he never made any money off of them). His old homeroom teacher is still at Rome High, as is his former friend Jackson Crowder—though Jackson is now the celebrated coach of the school’s football team. Just what happened in the decades between Marcus’ first day at RHS and his return to the school? And will Marcus make the same mistakes as the last time he walked these halls? As his story unfolds over two separate timelines, Marcus learns that some things about high school really are forever. Gibbs’ prose is smooth with just a bit of 1990s bite. He makes excellent use of his premise, which allows Marcus to opine on the things he hated—and still hates—about school. “This stuff, this is the stuff that matters,” he tells his football-obsessed students. “Algebra matters. Chemistry matters. Drop the winning touchdown pass tonight, and ten years from now, no one will care, and if they do still care, they’re losers, so why do you care what they think anyway? But drop the ball in here and you’re screwed.” There are some odd touches—the teachers all have literal Roman names like Nero and Trajan—but the novel is decidedly engrossing due to its quirky characters and its deft portrayal of two different eras of teen culture.

A highly readable and occasionally nostalgia-inducing novel about moving on from high school—or not.

Pub Date: March 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9857165-6-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Borne Back Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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