Bittersweet coming-of-age tale with flashes of wit and an especially sympathetic heroine.

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A young woman gets the chance to confront the now world-famous rock star who broke her heart 13 years ago, and who went on to write a series of deeply personal songs about her.

Back in Croton Falls, Vt., Jake Sharpe was a teen dream: beautiful, talented, with an aching vulnerability and an unhappy home life. After adoring him for much of high school, Kate Hollis finally gets her man, and the two are inseparable until Jake takes off for L.A. shortly before graduation—without saying goodbye. A devastated Kate tries to get over her loss, but finds it exceedingly difficult as Jake’s music career takes off, with his songs about their young love becoming modern classics. So when her childhood best friend Laura calls to alert her that Jake has come home to do a TV special, Kate puts her grown-up life in Charleston on hold and heads to Croton Falls, in an effort to make Jake “regret his entire existence.” At her parent’s house, Kate revisits all the memories, good and bad, that led her to this moment, including her dad’s mental breakdown and her mom’s subsequent affair, which brought Kate and Jake even closer. And, yep, he wrote about that, too. She then schemes her way onto Jake’s shoot, and catches his eye, setting the stage for the apology—and sexy reunion—that Kate has long been waiting for. Turns out that Jake has never gotten over her either, and the rekindling of their romance feels like fate, with Jake trying to make up for lost time. He whisks his muse to his New York penthouse, and the two share some blissful moments until the mayhem of his celebrity existence intrudes, causing Kate to question whether Jake has changed too much—or too little. This third effort from McLaughlin and Kraus (Citizen Girl, 2004, etc.) is spot-on in its depiction of Kate and Laura’s early girlish hysteria, and quickly overcomes a certain cleverness for its own sake to tell a moving story of teenage passion.

Bittersweet coming-of-age tale with flashes of wit and an especially sympathetic heroine.

Pub Date: June 5, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4013-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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