A work of fiction compassionately portrays an underrepresented disorder.



A novel explores the daily challenges a young girl with Tourette’s syndrome faces.

Twelve-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Palmer confronts more than the usual middle school social problems. Her goal: “I want to be like everybody else. I want to be normal.” But Izzy isn’t exactly normal. Her Tourette’s diagnosis means she needs to resist physical urges. She exhibits signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and, most embarrassingly, emits loud grunts or other noises. The neurological disorder makes her stand out at school and provides ample fodder for teasing. Her loyal friend Abbie helps her to feel more natural, but every day is a struggle (“Tourette Syndrome is not easy on anyone. Not on the person who has it, their family, or their friends”). Given an opportunity to try out for the school softball team, Izzy decides to attempt what seems so easy for other students but proves quite daunting for her. She tries to control her behavior and not give in to the extreme fatigue caused as a side effect of her medications. Her friends and parents help her practice her skills, and Coach Grant makes an honest effort to understand what accommodations might help Izzy. But Izzy gets discouraged and wonders if she would have more energy and play better by skipping her meds. It only takes a couple weeks for the symptoms to worsen to an excessive degree. Izzy learns a hard lesson: She has to reconcile her lifestyle with her meds. But she finds that success is possible with patience and practice. In her empathetic novel “dedicated to all children who dare to be different,” McLaughlin’s (Fireworks, 2017, etc.) teaching background is evident in how realistically she depicts the complicated middle school social structure and Izzy’s parents’ ongoing struggle to deal with the needs of a complicated tween. But the depth of Izzy’s world is also the tale’s flaw because it speaks to the middle school audience as if it were an adult fiction title bordering on self-help. The writing will likely appeal more to parents than middle school students. Still, the book is a particularly useful tool for support groups.

A work of fiction compassionately portrays an underrepresented disorder.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995773-2-5

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Absolute Love Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2018

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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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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