An intelligent, sensitive take on a coming-out story, with locales and characters that rise above the familiar.


A Cape Cod, Massachusetts, teenager deals with his tortured uncertainty about his sexual orientation in this YA novel. 

In 2013, James Howard Wallace has just turned 18, and he’s agonizing over the fact that he still hasn’t lost his virginity. He has a seemingly willing partner in Liz, a sweet 18-year-old girl whom he’s known and admired since childhood. The problem, though, is that James has long had a secret desire for men, and he fears, in his own argot, that he isn’t “sterling”—that is, straight. (The book’s title is also James’ invention: his notion of a place in the world where everything is all right and he feels normal.) James finds a compassionate mentor in neighbor Pat Baxter, an antique bookshop owner, while working a seasonal job. Pat gently tells James of his own history of marriage and divorce—a cautionary tale of what can happen when one tries to live a lie. The store owner is also the catalyst for reuniting James with Nathaniel Flederbaum, whom the younger, less thoughtful James bullied in middle school. James’ long-standing guilt over this, and his wish to make things right, is complicated by his current attraction to the strapping Nate. Pratt (Looking After Joey, 2017, etc.) organically weaves in other life choices and changes, such as selecting a university, losing a beloved great-aunt, and making a decision about Liz, into the story of James’ maturation. The author delivers a LGBT coming-of-age novel that, for the most part, preserves the messiness and uncertainty of youth in the clever, funny voice of its protagonist. Readers may be particularly drawn to the conflicted, questioning James of the earlier chapters. Expected moments of coming-out drama are mitigated by family members’ tolerance and understanding. Overall, the quirky complexity of the various characters is appealing, as is the unusual New England setting.

An intelligent, sensitive take on a coming-out story, with locales and characters that rise above the familiar.

Pub Date: March 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9981262-0-3

Page Count: 527

Publisher: Beautiful Dreamer Press

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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