An exuberant fantasy that earnestly explores its teen protagonist’s problems.


This debut YA novel tells of a family coping with a mother’s firm belief that she’s a mermaid.

In Columbus, Nebraska, 16-year-old Emily Parker is driving with her mother, Nora, in the passenger seat. When another car rear-ends them, her mom hits her head. Soon after Nora is discharged from the hospital, she becomes frantic because, for some reason, she thinks she’s missing a tail—one that was “aqua and turquoise with flecks of gold in the sunlight.” She further insists that if she isn’t returned to the Pacific Ocean, she’ll die. There’s a long waiting list at the hospital, so Emily’s dad, Bart, does all he can to comfort Nora at home, including pretending to be the dashing pirate that his wife now believes him to be. Emily’s 6-year-old sister, Amy, loves Nora’s transformation, but the teen loathes it—and the additional responsibilities that it entails. She now has to drive Nora to therapy and swimming sessions when she’d rather work with her school crush, José Hernandez, on a Shakespeare project. As the family’s life becomes more hectic, other changes occur: Nora loses quite a bit of weight and rekindles her relationship with Bart. However, when her personality change is imitated by others and becomes a phenomenon, Emily tries a new tactic to try to bring her mom back to her old self. Author Lilo’s YA fantasy is hilarious and touching, by turns, and it perfectly blends its teenage struggles with grown-up drama as it develops its characters. Nora, a no-nonsense Child Protective Services attorney, is described as never being able to relax because “She was too busy saving the world”; she’s also shown to have raised Emily with an awareness of her privilege, yet the girl “rarely [feels] comfortable” in her own skin. The author also weighs in on aspects of social media, which amplifies Nora’s problems. Lilo provides a memorable supporting cast throughout, including Emily’s rule-breaking grandmother and her 20-year-old swim coach, Tia. It all builds toward a suspenseful finale that respects the surrealism of the plot and the integrity of the characters.

An exuberant fantasy that earnestly explores its teen protagonist’s problems.

Pub Date: June 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72173-443-6

Page Count: 250

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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