An action-packed, if occasionally muddled, coming-of-age adventure.




SF and spiritual philosophy converge in this first installment of Robbins’ (The Reluctant Human, 2012) series. 

On his 18th birthday, Reuben Mitchell awakens from a recurring nightmare and can’t shake the feeling that something from an “unseen world” is “trying to break through” into this one. All his life, he’s been haunted by bad luck, culminating in a car crash that killed both his parents. Desperate to make sense of this trauma while navigating adult life in Big City, Reuben observes acts of casual cruelty and comes to the conclusion that the world, and he, are “ripping in two.” He soon starts to see otherworldly presences, including demons, in his daily life, which most other people can’t see. However, an accountant named Tanz rescues him from one of these demons, and it turns out that Reuben’s savior is a former guardian of the planet Narican. Reuben discovers that his own nightmares are actually clues to his past, revealing his true identity as one of the few survivors of Narican’s Sun Clan. Tanz trains Reuben to help him combat the dark forces that threaten to destroy Earth, just as they did Narican long ago. Robbins will keep readers’ attention with unrelenting action and the engaging drollery of Reuben’s narration. This first series installment establishes a breakneck pace that will hopefully continue in the next book. However, just as Reuben has difficulty distinguishing between two dueling realities, readers may find it hard to parse the relationship between Reuben’s world and ours. Familiar brand names, such as Toyota and Pac-Man, and locations such as the Alps and the Atlantic Ocean, don’t mesh well with the clearly fictional names, such as Big City. However, the story moves too fast for readers to worry too much about minor inconsistencies.

An action-packed, if occasionally muddled, coming-of-age adventure.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73339-780-3

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Bowker

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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