SUPERPOWERS

A quirky nocturnal visitor offers a confused 16-year-old the superpower of his choice.

Everything is suddenly different for Skipper, a New York City teenager; less than a week after his mother’s death from cancer, he wakes up in a hospital bed after suffering what his doctor calls a “life threatening” asthma attack and finds that someone is in the room with him—a strange man wearing a sombrero, a horizontally striped suit and mismatched socks. The odd stranger introduces himself as Hal and offers Skipper any superpower he would like, under the assumption that he will use it to make the world a better place. Unsure which power to choose, Skipper agrees to think about it and drifts off to sleep, bringing the surreal conversation to an end. The next day, Skipper isn’t sure whether the encounter had actually taken place, or whether it was brought on by the strong asthma medication his overprotective mother had always been wary of his using. But when Hal continues to visit Skipper at night, the teenager mulls over his superpower options in earnest. Meanwhile, Skipper, along with his best friends Albert and John, must negotiate all the social and physical hazards that come with being the relatively uncool kids at their exclusive private school, while Skipper deals with a crabby, emotionally distant father, an eager love interest and, most importantly of all, the freedom and responsibility that comes with life without his overprotective mother. This book presents a humorous yet poignant account of a young man’s first brush with adulthood, featuring well-rendered, believable characters. The prickly relationship between Skipper and his father is especially well done, and the scenes between Skipper and Hal utilize peculiar dream logic to good effect. There are moments that are slightly out of place—an encounter with a bully at a dance, for instance—but overall the plot flows nicely. The book’s simple prose and lighthearted tone make it a pleasure to read, and, combined with its universal themes, suitable for young readers and adults alike. The fact that the humor tends toward the goofy only adds to this book’s considerable charm. A touching, funny novel perfectly suited for anyone who is or ever has been a teenager.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461170167

Page Count: 249

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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