Wolf writes with insight and authority about an issue that society cannot afford to ignore as she points out that, even...

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DANNY'S MOM

Former educator Wolf pens a debut adult novel (Camp, 2012) about an American high school where bullying and intolerance seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

High school guidance counselor Beth Maller’s world is turned inside out on a wintry evening when her son, Danny, dies in a car crash on an icy road. Returning to work three weeks later, Beth does her best to rein in her grief and perform her day-to-day duties with little emotional support from school administrators or her husband, Joe. While a small group of teachers and her father try to provide comfort, Beth increasingly turns to a student’s grandmother for encouragement and understanding. She blames her husband for allowing her son to drive that night and is wracked by guilt because she did nothing to stop him. As these feelings spill over into her professional life, Beth becomes frustrated with an insensitive and rigid administration that prefers to adhere to rules at all costs, even if by doing so, a student’s welfare might be endangered. She struggles to cope with the realization that, contrary to traditional beliefs, good guys don’t always triumph, and integrity is not valued by everyone. When colleagues excuse incidents of bullying and intolerance by sweeping them under the rug, and a group of mean girls threaten a fragile student and even Beth herself, Beth decides to take action. And while the author presents Meadow Brook High as an improbably teeming mass of bullies of all shapes, sizes and ages, she makes a valid point: Abuse of power can occur at any level, can take many forms and can harm numerous people, as it certainly does in this brutally honest, no-holds-barred narrative that, in addition to illustrating this point, expertly blends the account of Beth’s personal loss into the story.

Wolf writes with insight and authority about an issue that society cannot afford to ignore as she points out that, even though many schools have implemented effective programs to deal with bullying and intolerance, recent cases serve as proof that institutions like Meadow Brook High do, indeed, exist and that more needs to be done.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61145-694-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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