Young people lacking ambition, confused about relationships and searching for the meaning of life: what else is new?

LEAVE BEFORE YOU GO

If the world needs another Bret Easton Ellis, New Zealand author Perkins could be a contender. Her debut novel, populated with disgruntled twentysomethings like those in her story collection, Not Her Real Name (not reviewed), promises sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but after an exciting start delivers mostly ennui.

Daniel is an unemployed young Londoner going nowhere when his friend Richard and an unsavory character named Sticksy sucker him into making a drug run from Bangkok to Auckland. It isn’t the lure of beer, beach, and Thai virgins that makes Daniel jump at the offer, but the idea of adventure and the $10,000 he hopes will give him the chance to make a new start. A few weeks later, confined to his room and the murky pool at a tacky Pattaya resort, he’s rethinking his rash decision as his anxiety intensifies along with his sunburn and stomach ills, but he’s afraid to do anything except wait for his instructions. By the time Daniel’s contact shows up with the heroin-filled condoms he’s to ingest and smuggle through customs, the tension is deliciously unbearable. Perkins skillfully sets up Daniel’s dilemma and maintains the pace right through his arrival in New Zealand. But then she shifts to the travails of a group of local slackers, zeroing in on Kate, an underachiever who works as an usher in a movie theater. The action shifts back and forth from Daniel to Kate until, inevitably, the two meet but never really connect, the depths of their alienation painfully apparent. While Perkins effectively captures the mood and mores of her subjects, once Daniel’s mission is complete, the anguish of youth takes center stage and the story goes flat.

Young people lacking ambition, confused about relationships and searching for the meaning of life: what else is new?

Pub Date: May 12, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019661-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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

BAREFOOT

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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