An entertaining fantasy that nicely balances some ghostly melodrama with whimsy, teen wish fulfillment, and coming-of-age...

THE WOMEN OF DAUPHINE

Death is no barrier to lesbian love in this YA supernatural romance.

Cassie is a shy, bookish New Orleans junior high student who feels alienated from her churchy parents and almost everything that goes on in school, especially the crushes her classmates are constantly gushing about. Her only real friend is Gem, a girl who looks about 15 years old; likes to wear a Boy Scout shirt, green skirt, and fishnets; and has haunted Cassie’s house for the two decades or so since she was murdered there in 1969. The schoolgirl and the ghost become soul mates and talk about everything, including Gem’s history with a girl named Daze, her “Hellcat” lover in reform school before their relationship ended in blood and fire. Cassie and Gem eventually come out to each other. After Cassie enters high school, they kindle a passion that progresses from making out to sex that is fully carnal (though demurely described) despite Gem’s lack of corporeal substance. Alas, the world just won’t let them be. After she slashes a homophobic bully and tells unbelieving adults about Gem, Cassie is packed off to Chose People Ministries, a coercive Christian therapeutic group that specializes in curing kids of gay sexuality and ghost delusions. There, she is subjected to aversive electroconvulsive treatments while viewing Sapphic pornography and pictures of specters. Jannerson’s (Thanks for Nothing, 2018, etc.) winsome yarn handles its magical realism in a vivid but matter-of-fact, no-jump-scare fashion, with the only horrors being those of religious intolerance and psychiatric abuse. Her treatment of gay sexuality is likewise positive and nonspooky. She nicely evokes the visceral wrongness Cassie feels dancing with a boy—“As the song progressed, Mackey’s hands drifted lower, and a nauseous lump formed in my throat”—and the giddy rightness she feels with Gem. The author at times brings a little too much maturity to the story: 13-year-old Cassie sometimes sounds like a 24-year-old graduate student—“both the activity and the actual notes felt, in the end, disingenuous,” she sighs when kids sign her seventh grade yearbook—and the third act bogs down in mundane relationship issues as college proves a direr threat than electroconvulsive therapy to Cassie and Gem’s love. Still, Jannerson’s appealing characters, deft prose, and psychological insights will hold readers’ attention.

An entertaining fantasy that nicely balances some ghostly melodrama with whimsy, teen wish fulfillment, and coming-of-age lessons.

Pub Date: June 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950412-89-1

Page Count: 229

Publisher: NineStar Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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