There are few challenges greater than voicing a smart, tough kid. Fans of teen fiction or hard-boiled detectives will find...

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HUGE

An uncompromising 12-year-old gumshoe takes on the case of his short life.

The hero of this debut novel is a boy detective, “Huge,” who has as much in common with Encyclopedia Brown or the Hardy Boys as Al Swearengen has with The Lone Ranger. A foul-mouthed, scrappy sixth grader with a skyrocketing IQ, Eugene Smalls might be a runt in the eyes of his peers but, in his mind, he’s bigger than life—hence the name—and determined to live up to the example set by Raymond Chandler’s famous description of what a detective must be in The Simple Art of Murder (“down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid”). “Sure, I realized I didn’t exactly fit the bill, because most around here would tell you that I was meaner than a short-order cook and more tarnished than all the girls in Catholic school,” says Huge. “So I had two strikes against me from the jump. But I had one thing in my favor: I wasn’t afraid of a goddamn thing.” Armed with a hero who assumes the most eye-catching characteristics of Holden Caulfield, Phillip Marlowe and Nick Twisp, Fuerst crafts a readable alternative noir set in the early 1980s. Huge takes on the only case he can land, solving the mystery of who tagged his grandmother’s nursing home for the princely sum of $10. To his credit, Fuerst pulls off the same trick as the 2005 film Brick in making his protagonist’s suburban surroundings and mundane foes seem as hard-boiled and corrupt as those in the Chandler novels Huge treasures. With period detail intact—Huge’s sources hang out in the arcade, while the private eye rides a bike with a banana seat—Fuerst still manages to integrate into the mix seedy bureaucrats, treacherous friends and even a couple femme fatales. Bonus points for capturing the pathos of adolescence without talking down to the audience.

There are few challenges greater than voicing a smart, tough kid. Fans of teen fiction or hard-boiled detectives will find this one credible and engaging.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-45249-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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