A pleasant, promising, slightly uneven American debut

WILDLIFE

In alternating narratives, two high school sophomores chronicle their private school’s nine-week wilderness experience: Introspective Sib gets a taste of dating a popular boy, and grief-stricken Lou begins to recover from her boyfriend’s death.

The semester begins just as a modeling gig brings Sib to the attention of the school’s most popular guy, Ben, leading to a lot of make-out sessions but little conversation. Dazzled and a bit puzzled by Ben’s attention, Sib is woefully unprepared to navigate the popular crowd’s dating rituals. Her missteps are used by her “best” friend, Holly, to raise her own meager social ranking, making her a consistent though predictable villain. Holly’s machinations are almost unfailingly met with Sib’s quick forgiveness, sapping their storyline of much of its potential punch. More engaging, however, is Lou’s grief and recovery, which is largely detailed through the tone of her observations of the social dramas unfolding around her, transforming from dismissive to engaged. Lou’s friendship with Sib’s friend Michael, an intellectual pining with unrequited love for Sib, injects the novel with believable sincerity and poignancy. Lou’s story also provides hints of interesting back story for secondary characters, especially her friends spending their own semester abroad. These moments when Wood allows her characters to deviate from what’s expected of them mark her as a writer to continue to watch.

A pleasant, promising, slightly uneven American debut . (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-24209-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Poppy/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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