A sometimes-unbelievable novel that offers the melodramatic appeal of a telenovela.

MAGDALENA'S SHADOW

In this poor-little-rich-girl YA story, a supermodel’s daughter suffers, loves, and dazzles.

Tall, gorgeous, 16-year-old Coco Rodriguez lives in a Chicago high-rise, abandoned there in early childhood by her jet-setting Argentinian supermodel mother, Magdalena, and left to the care of housekeepers. For three years, one housekeeper, Rosa, has abused the girl and told other people that Coco suffers from bipolar disorder. When Rosa’s wrongdoings are exposed, Coco’s life improves with a new housekeeper, Tia, who discloses that the new infant in the house—Bebe—is Coco’s sister. One day, the teenager meets Rob Banks, her penthouse neighbor, a handsome lawyer who has sole custody of a young daughter, Mila. Soon Mila and Bebe are having play dates as 28-year old Rob and Coco, now 17, fall in love. The teenager never tells Rob that she’s underage, and she also lets him believe that Bebe is her own daughter. Later, Rob is horrified when he learns that he’s unwittingly committed statutory rape, and he ends the relationship. However, Coco is secretly pregnant with Rob’s child. After Magdalena dies, the teenager becomes an instant hit as a model, taking over her mother’s fashion labels. She later finds herself in physical danger, but a vision of Magdalena grants her peace and purpose. Debut writer Orme gets things off to a rocky start in the story’s over-the-top opening section, which reads almost like horror fiction; in it, Rosa is painted as a broad, unpleasant caricature: “her double chins wobbled while spit flecked her fat lips.” The novel also never answers some head-scratchers, such as how the inexperienced Coco manages to successfully run a business. Lovers of fashion, though, will enjoy the fantasy of a supermodel’s daughter being showered with free designer outfits and instantly becoming a lauded model herself. Also likely to please are the details of Coco’s and others’ clothing designs and insider looks at the fashion world. Coco’s abandonment issues also deepen the story, as she learns to handle both independence and motherhood.  

A sometimes-unbelievable novel that offers the melodramatic appeal of a telenovela.

Pub Date: March 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9985953-1-3

Page Count: 444

Publisher: The Wow House

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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