A bizarre yet entertaining coming-of-age story.

PLENTY MILLION SECRETS

In Jamin’s thriller, a lost boy foresakes his past and embarks upon death-defying adventures around the world.

Jamin’s debut opens with a scenario familiar to the thriller genre: The young daughter of a wealthy businessman is kidnapped by a small, ruthless group led by a lean fighter wearing sunglasses and a ponytail. The kidnappers demand a ransom from the girl’s father but neglect to mention they’ve also accidentally abducted Carla’s friend Michael Dinero, a wiry, brilliant teen who manages to escape his captors before they deliver Carla to her parents. The girl is safe but traumatized, but there’s a problem: Michael left his backpack behind and his kidnappers know exactly where to find him and his parents, biotech millionaire Bob and tough, strident Gail. The Dineros hire ex–Secret Service agent Kevin “Boss” Daley to assemble an extremely well-paid team of experts to lower the profile of their opulent home and provide round-the-clock security. Boss and his team deal with threats both real and imagined, and the book seems poised to move toward a standard showdown with the villain. However, a quarter of the way in, everything shifts slightly toward the surreal; young Michael, in fear for his life and no longer willing to put his parents in danger, eludes his security team and disappears into the wilderness. Armed only with survival skills and calling himself Yorick, he spends months roughing it until the day he strikes up a conversation with eccentric millionaire Mr. Earle, who heads a shady international mercenary outfit called BlackBox Corporation. Earle’s bodyguard, Darwin, is an enigmatic figure who will become Queequeg to Yorick’s Ishmael. Impressed by Yorick’s computer skills, BlackBox hires him, sending him off on a series of far-flung international adventures that comprise the rest of the book. The text could use a thorough scrub to catch the kind of errors a computer’s spell-check would miss (“lightening” for “lightning” being one example). Despite those flaws, the important things—character development, dialogue, plotting and exuberant narrative flow—are all here in abundance.

A bizarre yet entertaining coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-615-59829-1

Page Count: 426

Publisher: G.A. Jamin

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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