A gaggle of disabled and otherwise different teens have their friendship tested by jealousy and hip-hop exclusionism in this gonzo young-adult fable.

Handicaps are spectacular but never encumbering among the students at the Green Rainbow Acres State School, located at the allegorical intersection of Truth Ave. and Pain St. in the slum district of Valley City. Bryan has Down syndrome, but he’s quick-witted and deep. Janice doesn’t let her muscular dystrophy get in the way of her high-falutin’ speechifying. Carlos, who has lost three limbs to three separate freak accidents, uses his toes to invent electronic gadgets. Moon is a black-belt in Aikido and a sound-and-lighting engineer for stage shows despite being deaf, mute and blind. Then there are the socially and psychologically disadvantaged: Mad Girl, truculent and pregnant; Learoy, truculent and pretty; Pho, huge and gentle; Dutch, white and stupid. Their tight, multicultural, stridently tolerant clique is disrupted by wheelchair-bound rap star MC Crippled Crip; while Janice and Learoy fall to cat-fighting for MC’s affections, Carlos, who complains that a Mexican-American rapper like himself can’t get a hearing in the hip-hop industry, insists that MC is a fraud who stole his lyrics. (Sample plagiarism: “Girl with that ass of yours / You won me from the start.”) The book’s somewhat cumbersome and avowedly silly narrative—“Beware, Mateys! Here thar be plot holes!”—functions as a lurid peg for eternal adolescent-lit themes: phoniness and authenticity; tensions between personal ambition and solidarity with friends; vague anti-establishment resentments; the centrality of rap culture to self-expression and group bonding. The writing, vigorous and suffused with urban rhythms but also coarse and platitudinous, soaks readers in profanity, flights of fancy (a Carlos-Crip showdown is staged as a faux-Clint Eastwood gunfight), bland moralizing (“‘It’s all about trust’”) and a nigh-obsessive ogling of Learoy’s bodacious (and underage) breasts and booty. The result is an imaginative, quirky read, but it’s so cartoonish that it doesn’t quite ring true. An exuberant but overblown tale of miraculous misfits.


Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-0979893490

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Truth and Pain, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2012

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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