An affecting portrayal of a troubled teen’s journey toward redemption despite a facile ending.

NO FENCES IN ALASKA

In this YA novel for older teens, a hard-partying, drug-using teenage girl in trouble asks for help from her long-estranged grandfather, who’s facing a challenge of his own.

Harper, a spirited 16-year-old girl in Texas, doesn’t remember the last time that her parents praised her or told her they loved her. Her condemnatory father, Greg, the head of an ultraconservative religious private school, has already driven her older brother away; Harper has found personal validation in flaunting her sexuality and uses heroin with her college-age, drug-dealing boyfriend. A confrontation with her father is followed by her boyfriend’s betrayal and the discovery that she’s pregnant. Desperate to escape the mess that her life has become, Harper calls her grandfather Cooper—a novelist and songwriter in Alaska whom she hasn’t seen or talked to in 10 years—and asks for refuge. Cooper’s own life is crumbling after a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease, but he’s determined to give Harper the help and unconditional love that he didn’t give his own daughter, whom he lost to drug addiction years ago. Sobey (The War Blog, 2018) vividly realizes the Alaska setting, and he frankly develops themes involving families torn apart by drug use and the sexual objectification of girls and women. He also offers a strong female protagonist who finds her voice and self-respect. The novel could be read as a just-say-no cautionary tale, as Sobey offers numerous, graphic examples of drug-related tragedy and ugly dysfunction, but its upbeat outcome feels unlikely. Harper and Cooper, however, are dynamic, complex, introspective characters who find, in each other, an accepting family at last. The warmth of their relationship leads a bit too conveniently to other familial reconciliations, new and rekindled romances, and an idealized resolution of Harper’s baby dilemma, but it has a lingering resonance.

An affecting portrayal of a troubled teen’s journey toward redemption despite a facile ending.

Pub Date: June 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-297-7

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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