A tightly executed first fantasy installment that champions the exploratory spirit.

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The Children of Darkness

From the The Seekers series , Vol. 1

Litwack (The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, 2014) begins a new fantasy series about a post-apocalyptic future run by religious fanatics.

In the quiet village of Little Pond, Nathaniel, Thomas, and Orah are teenage friends on the verge of adulthood. What responsibilities will they shoulder in their rural society, which frowns upon music, forbids unsanctioned books, and discourages imagination? As tradition dictates, a vicar arrives from the Temple of Light to choose someone among the new adults who needs a “teaching,” a mysterious ritual from which the chosen return quite somber. Although Nathaniel dreams of adventure and wants to see the magical Temple City, the vicar chooses Thomas instead. It turns out that the teaching process involves solitary confinement and other mental manipulations to crush people’s wills and keep the villagers from flirting with “darkness.” Soon after Thomas returns as a dead-eyed husk, Nathaniel learns of the temple’s true nature; when the vicars take Orah, Nathaniel is outraged, so he travels to Temple City and offers to take the girl’s place. While temporarily confined, he meets another prisoner named Samuel, who explains that the temple’s magic actually came from a prior society that prized individual freedom and creativity. Somewhere, he says, is a hidden keep full of wonders, and if it’s found by the right person, its secrets could start a revolution. As Litwack opens his meticulously crafted new series, he aids his righteous protagonists with a series of magical scrolls, written clues, and cooperative “keepers.” He effectively describes how the Temple of Light uses doublespeak to praise its monoculture and vilify the era of darkness, in which “people spoke different languages and worshipped different gods.” The author never veers into zealotry himself, however, always exploring both sides of the progress-versus-security argument (“Perhaps the quest for knowledge brought change faster than it could be assimilated,” muses a vicar). Orah, meanwhile, provides the soul of the narrative: a young woman who’s wistful and optimistic by turns and who understands that although “nothing can compete with childhood,” there’s no going back.

A tightly executed first fantasy installment that champions the exploratory spirit.

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62253-434-0

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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