Zinsky the Obscure

A powerful debut with Dickensian touches in its heartbreaking and occasionally humorous chronicle of the life of a modern...

A literary bildungsroman.

Mochari's debut chronicles the life of Ariel Zinsky who at the age of 30 has become something of a bitter misanthrope. Zinsky decides to chronicle his life so far with the goal of elucidating how it is he has become a man whose life is almost devoid of social interactions. He goes back to some of his earliest memories beginning with the beatings he received from his estranged father. In Zinsky's first person narration he describes his awkward, social misfit high school years, which are followed by his social misfit college years. However, once he sets out to focus on making a living publishing a guide to the annual NFL draft, a change begins to occur in his life. Zinsky begins to make friends at school, becomes more athletic and experiences his first sexual relationship. Post-college his devotion to his annual guide, which is slowly building a following leads him to quit his office job and instead work as a waiter, but it is also the guide which leads to his first real girlfriend. Although there are some rough times, Zinsky eventually reaches the point where his football side business has become a huge financial success. Still, Zinsky's old doubts and insecurities poison his personal relationships and bring him to the point where he runs away to Manhattan selling his football empire for a tidy sum so that he can take a low pressure gig at a football magazine. Thanks in part to his English teacher mother, Zinsky is well-read, and Mochari makes use of this fact in crafting a highly readable literary novel. Even when describing the most mundane of scenes Zinsky speaks like a Fitzgerald narrator, “I had cannily obtained many usernames and passwords from the IT department”. Though the novel is filled with many such mundane details, it flows well thanks in part to Mochari's clear but colorful prose. Zinsky's rough childhood makes him an underdog and a sympathetic narrator whose story is compelling. Even as he grows into a self-absorbed young man, the reader is still rooting for him though the advantage of another perspective means that the reader can see the error in Zinksy's ways. By novel's end Zinsky has gone from hero to antihero leaving readers with a sense of closure if not exactly a sense of satisfaction with the conclusion.

A powerful debut with Dickensian touches in its heartbreaking and occasionally humorous chronicle of the life of a modern young man.

Pub Date: March 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1937677114

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2012

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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

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A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.

Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.

In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943169-32-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Plum Street Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018



A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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