An entertaining adventure with a mystery at the center.

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THE BULLYBUSTER

A YA novel tells the story of a high school sleuth on the trail of a mysterious vigilante.

Ridgeview High School newspaper reporter Owen Dinsmore comes across noted bully Trevor Newsome right after the brute falls down the school stairs. Owen asks who pushed him, but Trevor is only able to say “Ro” (or is it “Robe”?) before losing consciousness. Nearby, Owen notices Erica Litvak, “probably the smartest student in the whole school and someone he found irresistibly attractive. Did she push Trevor down the stairs?” It falls to the new principal, Wilma Allan—who happens to be Owen’s aunt—to find Trevor’s attacker, and she decides to delegate the job to none other than her investigative journalist of a nephew. Owen already suspects that he saw Michael DeVere at the top of the staircase, the same student whom Trevor tormented with a swirly a few weeks before. The only other thing Owen has to go on is the fact that, when Trevor wakes up at the hospital, he identifies his attacker as a robot with a big metal arm. Owen begins to investigate the school’s robotics program, but mostly he’s excited for an excuse to spend more time with Erica. She agrees to accompany him to the Center of Science and Discovery, and she even gives him a kiss at the end of the date. Owen suspects that Michael may be obsessed with Erica. But the students don’t seem capable of building a robot strong enough to push Trevor down the steps. Then another bully in school is attacked, and this time the culprit is caught in the act: a foot-tall robot wearing a cardboard sign that reads “The Bullybuster.” Could a robot really be responsible for all the trouble? And who built it? And why? Cormany’s (Fast-Pitch Love, 2014) prose is colorful and generally light, replete with all the joys and anxieties of adolescence: “That’s when it hit him. What’s Erica’s phone number? He forgot to ask her! Despair punched him in the stomach like an iron fist. How stupid and careless of him!” While the premise sets up Owen as a hallway-wise junior gumshoe out to solve a ridiculous crime, the book’s atmosphere is more sincere than jokey, and the pacing is actually rather staid. The author uses the page space to skillfully build up his characters, and it is their relationships that drive the story more than the machinations of the plot. Some of the teenage boys talk like old men—Owen at one point claims to have “plenty of dough” to buy ice cream while his friend asks him if he’s “going with Erica now”—but Ridgeview is recognizable enough to draw readers in. Apart from a somewhat tone-deaf evocation of the Holocaust to explain one student’s personal aversion to bullying, the novel provides a fun take on the bully revenge fantasy that YA readers should enjoy.

An entertaining adventure with a mystery at the center.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79064-403-2

Page Count: 255

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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