Pauly’s voice has some charm, but even 13-year-olds might find the story cloyingly innocent and optimistic.

READ REVIEW

SINGING WITH THE TOP DOWN

A young girl deals with her parents’ death while driving with her aunt from Oklahoma to California in this work of spiritual uplift from romance novelist Williamson.

In 1955 Tulsa, Pauly is orphaned when her parents, manic-depressive Gracie and good-hearted but irresponsible Johnny, who is always moving the family to avoid paying the landlord, die in a rollercoaster accident. A tough-talking, precocious 13-year-old, Pauly feels guilty that she was angry at her parents moments before their deaths. She worries what will happen to her and her younger brother Buddy, a frail polio survivor who wears a leg brace. No one in the family wants to take them in until glamorous Aunt Nora shows up from Hollywood, where she’s supposedly been working as a movie extra. Aunt Nora has a big car and plenty of money. She offers to raise Pauly and Buddy and drives them back to California on what she calls “The Daring Adventure of Us,” a camping vacation/road trip. Although Pauly is suspicious at first, Aunt Nora wins her over with alacrity. Within a week, Pauly has adjusted to her parents’ deaths and is ready to accept Aunt Nora, who displays her generosity and upright morality in several incidents along the way. Soon there is another passenger. Tyb is a former ranch owner who has escaped from a retirement home with his dog Puppy. At first, Buddy’s friendship with Tyb threatens Pauly, but nothing in this story is ever too threatening. Even when Pauly and Nora are almost kidnapped and raped, the tone remains reassuringly comic. Once in California, Pauly’s biggest challenge comes when she discovers that Aunt Nora’s wealth is derived from real estate and realizes that landlords are not always the enemy.

Pauly’s voice has some charm, but even 13-year-olds might find the story cloyingly innocent and optimistic.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-451-21926-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more