A great young-adult novel—as it should be billed.

DEAR MR. CARSON

Plucky pre-teen breaks out of fat camp and embarks upon a cross-country adventure in search of her late-night TV idol.

Adolescence doesn’t hold much promise for 13-year-old Sunnie Sundstrom. She’s sandwiched between a sullen older sister and an overachieving younger brother, her classmates tease her mercilessly and it often seems like her mother won’t love her anymore if she doesn’t drop 18 pounds by the end of eighth grade. The only people who seem to see past Sunnie’s “Huskies for Her” jeans are her beloved Grannie Lassen and Johnny Carson, who makes her nights a bit less lonely. Things promise only to get worse when Grannie suddenly dies and Sunnie is shuttled off to the dreaded “Summer Slim-Down Retreat.” Much to her surprise, though, she finds herself making real friends for the first time, and an unexpected visit from the Pentecostal Bible Camp across the lake brings a handsome boy named Asher Gideon into her life. After an Asher-inspired prank gets her kicked out of camp, Sunnie’s newfound confidence kicks in. She trades her bus ticket back home to suburban Milwaukee for one to Los Angeles, where she vows to meet her hero. Though she clearly faces obstacles along the way, including an old man with unsavory intentions, persistence pays off and Sunnie comes to realize exactly how far she’s come. Sunnie navigates the world with grit and gumption, even if she’s the last person to realize it, and her ugly-duckling story will resonate with teenagers who aren’t sure they like what they see in the mirror. But for adults more removed from the injustices of middle school, the sweet premise and likable narrator won’t quite be enough.

A great young-adult novel—as it should be billed.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2006

ISBN: 1-57962-125-2

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more