A layered and emotionally ambitious fantasy.


In this middle-grade debut novel, a girl learns more about her deceased parents while searching for a local child who’s gone missing.

Young Veronica Curtiss lives with her grandmother on a farm in Little Pine, Texas. Her parents died in a car accident when she was 3, and she dreams of one day escaping her small, boring town. Today’s her 11th birthday, and her best friends, Rita Salazar and Johanna Cobos, give her a charm bracelet. When it later vanishes, her Gram jokes that Los Descarriados, the legendary Mexican cowboy ghosts, took it. Later, at the Fort McCullough Field Day, Johanna’s uncle, Billie George, participates in Civil War reenactments. Someone deflates his horse trailer’s tires, and Rita’s 6-year-old brother, Ramón, blames three men riding burros. Further strangeness occurs when a pair of ravens return Veronica’s bracelet to her—and apologize for snatching it. (“We’re not just pretty; we can talk human,” one says.) Then Ramón is suddenly nowhere to be found. The girls frantically search for him, but Billie George believes that the boy’s father, up from Mexico, has taken him. The ravens, whom Veronica calls Cork and Rackoo, point her toward her own father’s workshop, where he did flight experiments. Could a forgotten invention help her search for Ramón in a way that nobody else can? Although Enck sets her story in 2007, her exploration of xenophobia seems even more relevant in the present day. At one point, for instance, Billie George assumes, without evidence, that Ramón’s Mexican father is not only a kidnapper, but also a thief responsible for local robberies. Genuine thematic grandeur arrives when the local mailman, Howard “Alkali” Moskowitz, tells the girls about the Encyclopӕdia of Useless Things that he’s writing, which includes such concepts as shame and “most guilt.” Veronica’s desire to operate an old invention distracts a bit from the search for Ramón. However, the truth behind Los Descarriados is emotionally rich, particularly when Rita wonders, “Do you know what would make them happy?” Younger readers may need some help understanding the finale, and older ones, if they aren’t too teary-eyed, should oblige.

A layered and emotionally ambitious fantasy.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 287

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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