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

ISBN: B00ZEEJ1JI

Page Count: -

Publisher: Mastermind Comics

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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