A pleasant pastiche of teen sleuthing and coming-of-age gay romance.

DEATH AND LOVE AT THE OLD SUMMER CAMP

In Maggiore’s (Love and Lechery at Albert Hall, 2018, etc.) YA mystery, a teenager’s summer vacation takes an unpleasant turn when she and her best friend (and secret crush) uncover an old murder. 

In 1959, 15-year-old Pina Mazzini is staying in a forest cabin with her parents near an abandoned boys camp. While wandering the camp’s ruins, she suddenly has a disturbing vision of a bully taunting a younger boy that seems to end violently. She’s certain that she’s inherited her Sicilian grandmother’s ability to see the past and future, so she rushes to tell her friend Katie McGuilvry what she saw. They go in search of answers in the surrounding area; Katie finds a bone in the crafts cabin, she and Pina find a bloodstained shirt, and Pina and her father find a finger bone with a ring on it in a lake. Pina has more intense visions in which she sees teenage boys plotting the murder, and she eventually realizes that she and Katie are finding evidence of what might be a larger conspiracy. However, they can’t go to their parents about it, because Katie’s father might be involved; he went to that summer camp in his youth, and he has the same square tattoo as the boys in Pina’s visions. Then Katie’s father invites his old camp friends to visit. Meanwhile, Pina grapples with her romantic feelings toward Katie. Indeed, in this debut novel of a series, the narrative focuses mostly on the developing relationship between the two teens. The author’s tendency toward jokey dialogue can sometimes overwhelm the story, but the overall narrative effectively depicts their emotions of initial uncertainty and caring friendship. In the midst of this, however, the murder mystery doesn’t maintain very much of a sense of gravity, and the various clues all end up fitting together a bit too neatly. However, once Pina and Katie begin to see how the killing is connected to family members and friends, the book offers an engaging, suspenseful dynamic. 

A pleasant pastiche of teen sleuthing and coming-of-age gay romance.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943353-77-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

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.

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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