An account of a troubled adolescent and the havoc he wreaks on his stepmother’s domestic life, by the author of Every Day (1997). Usually it’s the stepmothers who get the bad press, but since this story is being told by one, the perspective is bound to be different. Paige Austin is something of a bluestocking. A bookbinder with a Yale degree, she’s married to a lawyer and lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Unable to have children of her own, Paige invests herself in any number of good works—taking tea with rich old ladies, visiting AIDS patients, and tutoring neighborhood children in the afternoons. Her husband Ian MacGowan has two children from a previous marriage, however, and one of them—his son Malachi—turns out to be a real handful. Expelled from his Brooklyn prep school for drug use, Malachi is sent to live with Ian by his disgusted mother, who washes her hands of him. Now Paige has to learn how to put up with a child in the house 24 hours a day. The initial surprise is how well she takes to it—and how well Malachi, starved for affection since his parents” divorce, takes to her. Soon Paige understands how much of a burden her childlessness had been to her. But soon enough, she sees the other side of the coin when Malachi begins to act out his rebellions against her, as well as against his father. After Paige and Ian discover him in bed with a girl, Malachi runs away and vows to live on his own—but returns stoned one night to take his revenge on Paige’s students in a prank that nearly leads to tragedy. Only then can he see the real depths of his anger, and his love. A soap opera, pure and simple, with characters about as deep as cardboard acting out a labyrinthine plot. If you listen closely, you can even hear organ music in the background.

Pub Date: March 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02397-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


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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