Excellent as both an action piece and a crime drama.

When The River Rises

From the writer and artist of Fallout (2015) comes a graphic novel inspired by true events at a Louisiana prison during Hurricane Katrina.

It’s August 2005, and Russ is an inmate of the Orleans Parish Prison. While he’s performing housekeeping duties, guards instruct him to help board up some of the prison’s windows because Hurricane Katrina is nearing landfall. Meanwhile, at the St. Bernard Parish Juvenile Detention Center, 16-year-old Sydquan discusses the possibility of release with his family and lawyer. To leave the detention center, they tell him that he must confess to a crime he didn’t commit. Instead, Syd remains silent and does time for the actions of another kid. This leaves him among a group of other juveniles who are bussed to safety at the Orleans Parish Prison. While serving the kids food, Russ is surprised to see Syd, his son, born shortly after his own jail term began; Syd, however, wants nothing to do with his absentee father. Then, when Katrina floods the prison and it loses power, the inmates must escape their cells or drown in sewage-tainted water. An uneasy truce forms between father and son as they navigate the chaos of the prison, only to face storm-ravaged New Orleans. Writer Walker and artist Oliveira do a fantastic job of immediately establishing the friction between inmates and keepers; for example, when Russ points out that he’s just mopped the floor, a guard asks, “You say something, midnight? Come speak into the mic, if something’s on your mind.” Generally, the dialogue is just tight enough to allow Oliveira’s black-and-white illustrations to do the narrative heavy lifting. A combination of fine linework and silhouettes gives characters a remarkable range of facial expressions and hand gestures, occasionally reminiscent of artist Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets, 2014, etc.). The story’s first half highlights the mismanagement of the prison, while the second shows the plight of neighborhoods destroyed by Katrina. Russ’ soul-searching helps readers find an uplifting ending, although plenty of cursing and gun violence mark this read for older teens and adults.

Excellent as both an action piece and a crime drama.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: Mastermind Comics

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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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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