Ahlème is real, and her tenacity, uncompromising toughness and cynical sense of humor give the novel a hint of joy.



Algerian immigrants try to make it in the gritty suburbs of Paris but have a difficult time keeping heart, soul and family together.

Guène (Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, 2006), who is of Algerian descent, has created a gutsy narrator in Ahlème, who tries to “roam around in the middle of everybody, the ones who run, the ones who beat each other up, are late, argue, make phone calls, the ones who never smile.” One of her principal concerns is her father, The Boss, who three years earlier received a head injury on his construction job and now sits in an armchair in his pajamas. Another anxiety is Ahlème’s brother Foued, who’s supposed to be in school but who prefers to run with a wild crowd on the streets, the “big dogs” who traffic in stolen DVDs. Because her mother died in a massacre in Algeria some years before, Ahlème is de facto parent both to her father and to her brother. Besides worrying about her family, she spends time looking for work. All she’s been able to come up with recently are dismal temporary jobs like handing out heart-shaped balloons on Valentine’s Day, going door-to-door selling mobile phones and having conversations on a phone-chat line. Overall, things don’t go Ahlème’s way: Tonislav, her putative boyfriend, is ambushed by the prefecture and sent back to Belgrade; Foued is expelled from school for calling one of his teachers a slut. Ahlème is street-smart and wants to convey to her family in Algeria that “over there, in France, it’s not what they think, that through the distorting window that is the television, they know nothing real.”

Ahlème is real, and her tenacity, uncompromising toughness and cynical sense of humor give the novel a hint of joy.

Pub Date: July 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-15-101420-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

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