A powerfully emotional exploration of disability and adolescence.

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BURNING THE BOATS

A disabled 17-year-old girl must confront her feelings toward her mother while also grappling with all the challenges of being a teenager in Minaki’s (Zoe’s Extraordinary Holiday Adventures, 2007) YA novel.

Naomi was born with cerebral palsy, and although multiple therapies have improved her motor functions, she requires a wheelchair or a walker to get through her day. Her twin sister, Mary, died shortly after their birth, and her mother was left emotionally paralyzed by grief. One day, Naomi’s mom took her older sister, Jo, and walked out, leaving Naomi with her father and younger brother. Despite this trauma, Naomi, now a teenager, succeeds in school, spending time horseback riding and developing close relationships with Lynne, a girl overcoming a learning disability; and Eva, a young woman battling alcoholism. When Naomi’s mother and sister suddenly reappear, she expects a terse dinner with them and nothing more. Then, without warning, Jo announces that she plans to move back in with Naomi and her father. Naomi does her best to navigate the new, tense family dynamic; she also finds herself beginning a romantic relationship with a young man named Matt, although she’s not sure that he fully accepts her disability. Complicating things further is Naomi’s friendship with Curtis, a young man who wants to escape an abusive legacy. Also, her mother is harboring a potentially shattering secret. Canadian author Minaki uses her educational background—she holds a master’s in education, specializing in disability studies—to paint an honest, sometimes-revelatory view of life with disability. Naomi spends much of the novel reflecting on her relationship to her cerebral palsy in the first person, relating it to such topics as love, independence, and her Christian faith. Minaki also allows other characters, including Naomi’s loved ones, to narrate brief segments with similarly heartfelt contemplation. The slow pacing and well-developed cast conjure up a fictional world that’s sure to engage readers.

A powerfully emotional exploration of disability and adolescence.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-1686-3

Page Count: 402

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2018

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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