ZIP SIX

The author of numerous children's and YA novels, Gantos turns for the first time to some distinctly adult material in this straightforward jailhouse narrative, yet another novel in which an Elvis impersonator figures prominently. Ray Jakes is a medium-level drug dealer whose luck runs out when his involvement in a drug-smuggling scheme leads to his conviction and a possible six-year sentence. A college dropout, with the vague ambition to become a forest ranger, Jakes finds himself stuck in the limbo of a transfer jail on Manhattan's West Street. His disgusted girlfriend doesn't visit, he has no real friends, and he must also endure the indignities of jailhouse life, from the constant fear of rape to the maddening pervasiveness of vermin. He eventually lands a cushy job on the hospital detail, where he also hooks up with Seth Zimmer, an Elvis impersonator who's in for embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, and other crimes committed in the name of the King. "A symbol of hope for losers," the pseudo-Elvis mesmerizes a prison talent show, inspiring the warden to send him on the jailhouse circuit, with Jakes as his manager. Both cons figure this is a way to a short term, but only Elvis manages to cut a deal. Jakes finds his way out by blackmailing the warden with some purloined X-rays proving excessive force by guards, but it means betraying his only friend, a kind prison doctor. Further betrayals mar life outside, when Jakes loses his substantial pre-jail stash in a nasty con executed by his supposed buddy Zimmer. Numerous flashbacks provide a socio-psychological profile of Jakes's rootless youth and of his need to be a follower, a weakness that invariably lands him in trouble. And also makes him thoroughly unlikable. The jailhouse insight in this unsurprising, rather superficial work comes nowhere near the belly of the beast.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1996

ISBN: 1-882593-15-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bridge Works

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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