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 COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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