Haphazardly punctuated first novel of middle-class Europeen angst that's less about rock 'n' roll, or pubescent love, than about Anglo-American slacker culture and a bunch of dead-end kids who talk the talk and walk the walk because they have nothing better to do. The story, set in Bologna, veers between impressionistic accounts of 16-year-old Alex's search for love, thrills, and a purpose in life, and transcripts of his annoyingly affected tape-recorded diary. Alex is, of course, alienated from his family, who apparently do nothing but watch television, eat, and drive Alex wherever he can't take himself on his bicycle—this last a relic of his childhood that comes to symbolize his quest for enduring values. When not flying through Bolognese streets on the bike and thinking of himself in rock bands, or as Holden Caulfield, Alex plays the rebel without a clue: sleeping late, scowling menacingly at girls, drinking too much, and nearly failing what few high school classes he doesn't cut. He suffers a brief friendship with Martino—an upper-middle-class teenage nihilist who has all the right clothes and rock 'n' roll posters, and enough money from his divorced parents to spend most of his life intoxicated—that ends when Martino is arrested and commits suicide. The tale's only variation from earlier interpretations of the coming-of-age formula is revealed in Alex's inability to have sexual feelings for Adelaide, who raises him from his gloom like a Beatrice to Dante. Alas, Aidi departs for a year of foreign study in America. Alex tenderly gives her his security blanket as a keepsake and zooms tearfully away on his bike. Numerous '90s pop-culture references (the title refers to a guitarist who abruptly quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and insouciance that begins to grate. A big seller in Italy, we're told.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8021-3521-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1997

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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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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 modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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