Glittery—and surprisingly gritty—fun.


What drama lurks behind the smooth social facade of wealthy young Jewish women in the New York Tri-State area? Actress/screenwriter/first-novelist Rose tells all.

Ali Cohen doesn’t have good memories of Camp Willow Lake, an exclusive summer spot for the toniest of Jewish society. Ali was a social outcast, and something particularly ugly happened one night in the woods when she was there. But now she’s all grown up and has even been nominated for an Academy Award for her documentary work. That’s why she’s been invited back to shoot a video about Willow Lake's 100th anniversary. It’s the perfect excuse to dig into the lives of all the popular girls who made her life hell. They haven’t all turned out so wonderfully. Arden has become a drug addict after the success of her first performance art piece. Dafna is such a princess that even her father couldn’t stand to employ her; she’s out of a job and can’t land a man to support her. Beth, who’s never done much thinking, suddenly realizes she doesn’t want to marry her fiancé and runs off with the wedding photographer. Jessica, who’d always dreamed of Broadway, is doing regional theater in Florida. Successful Hollywood agent Laura doesn’t have the time or inclination to help Jessica or anyone else. And queen bitch Wendy lives in terror that her secret life will be revealed. The plentiful stereotypes here are embellished with such convincing specifics that they’re easily forgiven. It’s chick-lit for sure, but Rose gives it some extra oomph, and following the roller-coaster plot provides quite a rush. (Unexpected pregnancy! Lesbian affair!) Through it all, the author manages to make readers care about her numerous characters. They may be shallow, mean, self-centered, ruthless and resentful, but each has her redeeming qualities. Not to mention lovingly detailed wardrobes and beauty regimes.

Glittery—and surprisingly gritty—fun.

Pub Date: May 17, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-51286-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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