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

NARICAN

THE CLOAKED DECEPTION

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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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