A smashing debut that’s both intimate and epic.

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In this YA debut, a high schooler befriends the class loner and a World War II veteran.

Edwin Green is a junior at J.P. Hornby High School in Hornby, Alabama. His ex-girlfriend Sadie Evans became a celebrity after improbable events, revealed later in the novel, that happened on April 13, 2014, which Edwin calls “Black Saturday.” In the year since then, he’s been making YouTube videos in the hope of becoming famous himself and winning her back. Then, one day in history class, Edwin’s sad life is graced by Parker Haddaway, a gruff girl whom the teacher makes his partner in a class project. They must ask someone who lived through World War II a series of questions—and luckily, Parker knows just the man to interview: 90-year-old Garland Lenox, who lives at the Morningview Arbor rest home. They ask the cantankerous Air Force veteran about the first time he heard the name Adolf Hitler, and he says, “Doesn’t ring a bell.” He’s teasing them, of course, but the next time the teens visit, Garland has a serious proposal: He offers Edwin $25,000 to help him secretly go to France and reunite with his long-lost love, Madeleine Moreau. The notion is preposterous—but Edwin thinks that if they can complete the mission, he’ll finally become world-famous. Gibbs adds an unconventional sweetness, reminiscent of Jerry Spinelli’s 2000 novel Stargirl, to a tale of a trip to Saint-Lô, which the Allies bombed during WWII. Along the way, the author crafts lines that effectively illuminate both his snarky characters and modern society. Edwin, for example, narrates, “for at least half the famous people out there fame just fell on their heads like bird shit.” Garland, amid irreverent one-liners, provides a wealth of firsthand experience about the Second World War and midcentury America (“I joined the Air Force to get out of the damn woods and see the world”). Parker loves 1990s rap music, and Gibbs sprinkles lyrics throughout the story like confetti. As her fate intertwines with Garland’s and Edwin’s, the meaning of the book’s title comes into flower. In the end, Gibbs avoids easy, saccharine plot turns in favor of ones that strengthen his characters.

A smashing debut that’s both intimate and epic.

Pub Date: May 20, 2019


Page Count: 250

Publisher: Borne Back Books

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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