Quick-moving, cleanly written: a promising start for Curran.

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WHORES ON THE HILL

Arresting first novel about a Milwaukee 15-year-old and her two best friends, the “sluts of Sacred Heart.”

Thisbe, aka Jellybean, is humiliated by a classmate and silent for six months before her parents divorce. After that, she and her mother on their own, her mother transfers her to Sacred Heart. Within days, she connects with Astrid and Juli in a “teenage kind of family.” The threesome dress in “uniform punk”—boots, shredded tights, short skirts—and, in pursuit of boys, they’re called “whores on the hill.” Together they discover makeup, boys (from “Jagermeister kid” to two Serbian college students to a bunch of football players to a stuttering NASCAR wannabe), birth control (the pill, a diaphragm), drugs, booze, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Astrid boasts, “We’re the new breed of the new girl. We take no prisoners.” The three experience the exhilaration of infatuation and the pain of rape (“You ever notice, sooner or later, all love begins to look like violence,” says Astrid). Their parents and teachers are bit players in a drama that involves all-night diners, coffee shops, parties and dance clubs. Jellybean falls in love and has her first orgasm, Juli attempts suicide and ends up in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. The legend of Deb Scott, the wildest girl to come out of Sacred Heart, hangs over the group as a cautionary specter. She has disappeared, possibly died, and every year, on the anniversary of her disappearance, the senior girls throw a howling masked party. Curran adds punch to her story with occasional passages based on the format of teen magazine cover lines, like “first sexual experiences by star sign” or “first kiss.” But what makes it sing are the lyrical descriptions of the intensity of those first times—including first betrayal by a best friend—and the aftermath of “remorse . . . grit and shame and a broken, nameless joy.”

Quick-moving, cleanly written: a promising start for Curran.

Pub Date: May 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-7995-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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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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