Fun, frolicsome series with good humor and a message of unity and equality; new readers may want to start at the beginning.

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You're in HighSchool Now

JULIAN'S SOPHOMORE YEAR, PART 1

The life and times of an adventurous, gay high school sophomore.

In the latest installment featuring Julian, the affable lead in the Julian’s Private Scrapbook YA series, author Eldot (The Champions: Julian’s Private Scrapbook, 2013, etc.) re-creates the autumn of 1962 as Julian embarks upon another school year full of books and boys at Jackson High School. Amid a backdrop of artistic inclinations and first-day jitters, Julian’s romantic feelings for Mark, his Scoutmaster at Camp Walker over the past summer, continue to simmer, with their exploratory fondling lingering in his memory. But his concerned mother, Francine, encourages him to show an interest in girls. When Rita, an attractive, mischievous schoolmate, asks Julian, aka “the blond masterpiece,” to the Sadie Hawkins dance, the obvious awkward clashing of orientations ensues. Humor is one of Eldot’s strong suits; he has an impressive capacity for penning farcical, innocently disastrous moments. He also builds a good supporting cast, like Mark, who is in a heterosexual marriage of convenience after his longtime partner died seven years prior; and Randall, a gay virgin and recent arrival to Jackson High. Intimate shenanigans occur at a secret society campout for randy boys, but the author takes care to handle these moments with restraint. Structurally, however, Eldot fumbles a bit. He shifts perspective awkwardly and adds too many disclaimers, style notes, and end matter that are meant to illuminate Julian but result in informational overload. Still, Eldot successfully taps into the experiences of gay youth with a believable blend of engaging characterization, humor, pathos, back story, and teenage angst.

Fun, frolicsome series with good humor and a message of unity and equality; new readers may want to start at the beginning.      

Pub Date: July 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-893075-77-1

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Q Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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