A challenging exploration of otherness and self-belief.


From the Orphan Dreamer series , Vol. 2

An ostracized girl and an abused boy look for acceptance and survival in an eschatological fantasy from Brown (Orphan Dreamer and the Missing Arrowhead, 2019, etc.).

Eleven-year-old Daniela Rose “Danny Rose” Cavanaugh lives in Florida and is an “Einstein-level genius.” Her dad believes she’s the next Messiah—his “Orphan Dreamer,” destined to save the world—but Danny is miserable. Being of mixed race, she is bullied for not being “black” enough. Her one friend, Ethan, is dying of cancer. Animals talk to her. She hears voices in her head and suffers from nosebleeds. Worst of all, a boy with no eyes haunts her dreams: “oily boy,” whose pain she feels as her own. He is 12-year-old Cillian Finn, who lives in Ireland. A child of rape, he is hated by his own mother. He is the object of beatings (and worse) and is snatched away from anyone who offers him kindness. Branded “Leviathan”—the Antichrist—Cillian is abused and despised, with his only respite coming when Daniela prays for him and sends him an angel. But Danny Rose has her own problems. Now 13 years old, she has been given a diamond, and it has transformed into a snowflake tattoo on her palm. Through this, she and Ethan travel out of their bodies to the biblical town of Gibeah in the year 1018 B.C.E. When they return, Ethan dies. Danny thinks it’s her fault. Self-harm lands her in the hospital, where she is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, and to save Cillian, first she must understand and accept herself. Brown has crafted a dense and rather abstruse novel, tackling themes of belonging and deprivation within a sprawling nonlinear narrative. The second episode in a series, it lacks closure and the solid pacing of a self-contained story. The dialogue, however, resonates strongly; and though the book is not tightly focused, Brown has steeped its pages in a religiosity and portent that add weight to the difficult subject matter. Danny Rose and Cillian lead deeply unhappy lives. Their childhoods make for an uncomfortable telling, but they stick in the mind. For these two characters alone, readers may take a leap of faith.

A challenging exploration of otherness and self-belief.

Pub Date: June 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942849-05-6

Page Count: 427

Publisher: Rogue Reads, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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