A skillfully crafted and entertaining cautionary tale.

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4% FAMOUS

Three young New York gossip columnists face tough personal and professional choices while chronicling the decadent misadventures of the rich and famous.

Holding tight to idealistic dreams of becoming an investigative journalist, 22-year-old Kate Simon has mixed feelings when she takes an entry-level job reporting on parties for the New York Examiner. These early reservations take a back seat, however, as the ingénue finds herself seduced by instant access to the kind of events her peers could only dream of. She discovers unlikely allies in rival columnists Tim and Blake, who take her under their boozy wings and initiate her into their dizzying underworld of sex and drugs, where “items” are scribbled on cocktail napkins, and juicy info is traded, or held, for favors. Tabloid nightlife fixture Tim is a sexy, cynical bad boy who occupies himself with an endless stream of model/actresses, also known as “mattresses” until he meets Kate’s stunning friend Zoe, a rich girl who shares his hard-partying ways. Their romance appears doomed, though, when one of Tim’s former conquests comes forward claiming to be pregnant with his baby, fueling his self-destructive tendencies. Unlike habitually broke Tim, trust-fund preppy Blake chooses to work, earning the thinly veiled contempt of his media-hating banker dad, who thinks his son should write features. But when his father is investigated for financial improprieties involving expensive paintings, Blake finally sees an opportunity to be useful to his family, if his friends don’t scoop the story first. Meanwhile, Kate falls for talented and media-savvy chef Marco Mancini, but finds herself wondering if the restaurateur genuinely cares for her, or is using her connection to keep his own past secret. Soon enough, Kate comes to see the vacuous world she covers as a dead end dressed up in gift bags and free meals. Sharply written and peppered with authentic detail and boldface names, this witty debut from journalist Schoeneman sags only slightly with a too-obvious message on the ultimate emptiness of the pursuit of fame.

A skillfully crafted and entertaining cautionary tale.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-23746-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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