A disconcerting central character is adeptly balanced by a strong young girl likely to win readers’ hearts.

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Psycho Save Us

Huskins’ (Khan in Rasputin’s Shadow, 2009) latest thriller follows two kidnapped young sisters who find help from an unlikely source—a psychopathic serial killer.

A late-night excursion for groceries takes a dark turn for Kaley and Shannon, young siblings taken by a Russian group that deals in human trafficking. It seems that the only witness to the abduction, Spencer Pelletier, isn’t sticking around; a seasoned criminal and killer, he escaped from the Leavenworth federal penitentiary two years ago and would prefer avoiding the cops. While authorities search for the girls and Spencer, Kaley uses an ability her grandmother called “the charm” to develop a telepathic connection to Spencer. A disturbing man, Spencer behaves in twisted ways disclosed rather bluntly—particulars of his murders involve a rather uncomfortable amount of biting. He may make some readers squeamish, and he’s certainly hard to like when he’s gathering funds and false identification to continue hiding from police, all while two girls are being held captive. But Huskins smartly turns Spencer into a necessary evil: Kaley’s “charm” sets him on a path often reserved for heroes, and the kidnappers, whose vile deeds exclusively include children, are much worse. The true protagonist, however, and the story’s finest character, is 12-year-old Kaley. She’s a motherlike figure for her younger sister, Shannon—their real mother is a meth addict—and even to Bonetta, another abducted girl. Her initial encounter with Spencer at a local store is astonishing—they unnerve one another, her sensing that he’s a murderer, him believing she’s recognized him—and brilliantly establishes a bizarre alliance that’s maintained throughout the story. The novel sustains a high level of intensity, with the girls rarely being left alone and their captors moving them while keeping them under surveillance. It also teases Spencer’s past transgressions—namely an incident in Baton Rouge and what exactly happened to a schoolmate in the fifth grade. The inevitable confrontation between Spencer and the human traffickers may not be to everyone’s tastes, but its audacious over-the-top approach is certainly imaginative and not likely to be forgotten.

A disconcerting central character is adeptly balanced by a strong young girl likely to win readers’ hearts.

Pub Date: April 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482064735

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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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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