A morbid yet warmhearted fantasy about the circle of death.

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A GRAVE FRIEND

A teenager imagines how a corpse could become the neighborhood kids’ source of amusement, companionship, and legend in this debut illustrated book.

White narrator Jay and his friend Carl, who is black, grow up as “just poor city kids with a faint spark of hope,” finding simple joys where they can. When they were younger, they could form a club or make a fort; now they’re old enough for “girls and sports.” When a fancy hearse glides down the street, Jay and Carl are taken with its style, the narrator thinking he’d be proud “to posthumously cruise town in such taste.” Carl agrees, asking Jay to ensure that he gets a last cruise in a hearse. If the funeral is expensive, “have the hearse drop me off in some random ravine.” The idea sparks an extended fantasy in which Jay imagines how entertaining it would be for a couple of kids, maybe in fifth or sixth grade, to discover Carl’s body. They’d start a club centered on Carl’s corpse with games, “gross inspirations, / And grosser initiations, / New heights of grossness, new legends untold.” Carl, who in life would have been childless, could in death watch these kids grow up. And, even if the original discoverers outgrow Carl, they could find a replacement and “leave the body on a lawn, / For new kids to poke, prod and cherish.” In his short, humorous book, Edwards tells the story in triolet pairs rhyming AAB, CCB, with somewhat uneven scansion. More importantly, the tale has an offbeat sense of the macabre that’s original, surprising, and fun: Stephen King’s The Body meets Sesame Street. The idea that a corpse dumped in a bog could become a secret friend and clubhouse centerpiece is bizarre, yet children are fascinated by death and lured by the power of knowing something that adults don’t. The author’s illustrations have a cool, distinctive style, depicting elongated limbs and wedgelike noses. Watercolorist Hayes, in her debut, effectively contrasts the subject matter with a soft, attractive palette.

A morbid yet warmhearted fantasy about the circle of death.

Pub Date: April 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2254-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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