A sturdy sports novel with much greater appeal.

THE BALL PLAYER

A coming-of-age novel about a young man’s ambition to play Major League Baseball and the lifelong friendship that guided him along the way.

Baseball: our national pastime; a game of tradition and history that recalls a simpler era. It’s also a billion-dollar industry that showcases celebrity talent. Snellgrove, in his debut, looks deep into the psychology of the game’s players as they fight for a big-league position. Ultimately, it’s a novel about the myth of boyhood dreams, the limitations of ability and the realization that wanting it all can be too much. The unnamed protagonist begins his story by recollecting his earliest competitive desires, which were fulfilled by the challenges he and his best friend, Danny, waged for nearly any activity—at times risking their lives. The two boys grow up, however, and learn that the childish games of their past have now perfectly primed them for higher-level sports. While Danny excels at both football and baseball, he grows despondent at being only 5 feet 7 inches; he knows scouts will never notice him. But the narrator becomes a standout ball player, and his skill is matched by his stature; he’s drafted into the minor leagues right out of high school. From this point on, the two men grow distant as their competitiveness leads them into different lives: Danny becomes a local football coach, and the narrator continues to persevere through grinding but successful minor league seasons. The narrator feels like Danny is just as capable as he is of playing at this level, but he also recognizes his own talent and fortune, which doesn’t make success any easier. Snellgrove deftly illustrates the pressures on ball players vying for select spots, even on a minor league team. In one particularly heartrending scene, the narrator succumbs to his cutthroat competitive nature by taking testosterone supplements to give him an edge. Solid character-building makes such real-life decisions that much more believable and tragic.

A sturdy sports novel with much greater appeal.

Pub Date: April 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0979788505

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Loaded Press

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2012

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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