The protagonist’s troubled back story is well-trod territory, but his uncertain future keeps things lively.

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THE WOODS

In debut author Viceconte’ coming-of-age novel, a teenager’s attempt at redemption leads him from suburbia to jail to a shaky future.

How did David, a 16-year-old with a loving father who grew up in the safe suburbs of Connecticut, come to get caught trying to transport four pounds of marijuana out of New York City? Prior to his arrest, David had been kicked out of a boarding school in New Hampshire for fighting and was having trouble adjusting to life back in Connecticut. He felt like a stranger in his hometown and was failing most of his classes. Lucky for David, in the eyes of the law, he is a minor, and in the eyes of his father, James, he is a smart kid who made a mistake. James sends David to a program for troubled teens called Blue Ridge Outdoors. David will hike in the woods, learn how to start a fire without matches, and become accustomed to life without cigarettes. The exorbitant program is run by a shifty, closeted alcoholic named Paul, but where else can a boy with a violent past and a rap sheet straighten out? The opening chapters of the book, in which the reader learns about David and his degenerate friends, teems with characters Bret Easton Ellis might have dreamed up. The problem is that even the most degenerate of the bunch—a boy named Steven who gets into his own drug-fueled trouble with the law—would likely get laughed out of Less Than Zero for being too soft. The story picks up immensely with David’s departure for Blue Ridge Outdoors. Ellis (and writers who emulate him) have created young people that have done unspeakable things, but what would happen if you sent such youngsters into the forest for reform? David’s time in the program is full of possibilities. David is told not to concern himself with what lies ahead (“No FI, No Future Information” one of his counselors explains), and the reader, likewise, is kept guessing about how things will unfold for the reckless teenager. The suspense comes in finding out what David must do to succeed and what kind of person he’ll be when it’s all over.     

The protagonist’s troubled back story is well-trod territory, but his uncertain future keeps things lively. 

Pub Date: July 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5214-1799-7

Page Count: 271

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

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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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