A pleasant trip to an earlier era that shows how simpler times were still complex.

The Knute Rockne Kid

Bruno’s (Think Yourself Thin: How Psychology Can Help You Lose Weight, 2015, etc.) latest novel is an engaging coming-of-age story about a California teen bordering on adulthood just after World War II.

Mario Calvino is his school’s starting quarterback and is dating a cheerleader, neither of which feels right to him. Mario has higher aspirations: “I had just told my mother that I was thinking of not playing football in my senior year. Not a big deal? Wrong. It was a very big deal.” His father, the head football coach, needs a winning season to help with getting tenure. “I didn’t want to let him down,” Mario says. He wants to be a doctor, so he knows that he needs strong grades. Mario also knows that a concussion from football wouldn’t help him meet that goal. Bruno smoothly guides Mario—dubbed the “Knute Rockne Kid” by a local sportswriter—through this obligatory final season as he matures while falling out of and in love and learning about decisions and their consequences. Bruno convincingly characterizes Mario’s close-knit Italian family and his friends, and in a description of Mario’s father: “My father was about six-foot-two. He had a square-cut face dominated by a hawkish nose. There was an air of power and distinction about him. He gave off masculine charm the way a sparkler gives off sparks. And he knew the power he had over people.” Bruno also allows characters young and old to evolve throughout the novel, most finding themselves in a better place by the end. Despite a handful of tragedies, the narrative offers a winning air of optimism. Mario’s bumpy journey to manhood proves to be an enjoyable one for readers.

A pleasant trip to an earlier era that shows how simpler times were still complex. 

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Coraggio Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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SUMMER SISTERS

The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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