A touching coming-of-age story about a boy who has to deal with more troubles than any kid should.

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Bougainvillea Blues

A 12-year-old boy experiences the magic of first love while coping with serious family problems in this debut novel.

Joey Norton is growing up in San Diego in 1962, the height of the Leave It to Beaver era, but his home life includes its share of unconventional elements. His mother parades around the house nude, sometimes getting a little too close to Joey, which infuriates his sister. For his part, Joey sneaks out of the house at night to spy on a neighborhood girl through her bedroom window. He gets beaten up by her brother over the voyeurism, but that fails to deter him from playing at being a peeping Tom on a semiregular basis. The Nortons aren’t stereotypical free-spirited Southern Californians, though, but Southern Baptists, originally from Texas. On a trip to Texas to visit his grandmother, Joey meets Gloria, a second cousin, and their new relationship leaves him feeling pangs of desire and intense emotion: “It was too much goodness and beauty and stimulation and joy and the fulfillment of every dream of what having a girlfriend might mean.” Returning home, Joey pitches for the Little League baseball team, fends off his busybody mother and needling sister, and lives to secretly call Gloria at night. His dad, a bastion of stability and provider of advice, doesn’t have a great relationship with his wife, and an unexplained emergency that he rushes out to one night ends up being a fateful evening in devastating ways. Told from an adult perspective, the voice that Galyean gives Joey is at once romantic, nostalgic, self-effacing, and angry. The fairly adult subject matter is at times frank and disturbing, but the world the author creates for Joey is always rich with emotion and detail. From the stunningly confident older sister, Debbie, to the slamming front door at the grandmother’s house, the people and places are instantly familiar and exist in a complex, difficult world full of pain, insight, and beauty. The novel is somewhat overwritten; a slimmer version would have strengthened the work without undermining its many intricacies.

A touching coming-of-age story about a boy who has to deal with more troubles than any kid should.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4935-1119-8

Page Count: 466

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2016

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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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