Hair-raising, funny and surprising; an indulgent page-turner that might keep you off the water.


A bloody, cinematic romp through backwoods Illinois.

Reading Young’s debut book is a lot like going to the movies. The setup—teenage friends embark on a wild, ill-fated weekend aboard a houseboat—is straight out of a horror flick, and Young’s short, single-location chapters have the feel of movie scenes. Needless to say, fans of thrillers and slasher films will have plenty of fun joining lovebirds Peter and Maggie and company on their eventful trip down the Illinois River. Young’s exposition is particularly well-executed, alternating glimpses of Peter and his two friends’ drunken joyride to the marina with Maggie and a pair of sisters making their own stoned way there. In true horror-movie fashion, each group has some unsettling encounters that fail to make them turn back: The boys cause a ruckus at a wine shop after making moves on some older women, the girls get ogled by some locals at a grocery store, and Maggie’s stop to buy pot reveals she’s been distracting herself with a charming but decidedly creepy dealer while Peter’s been away at college. Once the gang’s out on the water, all hell breaks loose, with characters dying one by one—killed and consumed by mysterious shadowy figures who hunger for human flesh. Readers will require a high tolerance (or taste) for gore if they’re to enjoy the better part of Young’s book. Still, there’s more than just violence here: humor and a sly camp sensibility run through the story as well. Throughout, Young makes a point to note the songs playing at particular moments, “Bad Luck” and “Killing Me Softly” among them. While the mythology underlying the killings, featuring an ancient, proto-Aztec community of cannibals, seems more convoluted than the plot requires, Young nonetheless sustains suspense through the very last page, and his simple, straightforward writing makes for an engaging though not overly taxing read.

Hair-raising, funny and surprising; an indulgent page-turner that might keep you off the water.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477696613

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet