A witty, colorful debut about a young man’s struggle for redemption.


A first novel that delivers a tale of drugs, love and adventure.

Howard’s captivating debut features a charming, relatable hero, Bobby, and his friends, Vic, Eric “Fingers,” Anna and Jessica. However, the narrative primarily focuses on Bobby’s adventures as a drug dealer and cocaine addict. As his drug problem worsens, he grapples with difficulties relating to his family and friends and distances himself from them. The turning point of the novel comes when Bobby’s grandmother dies; because Bobby is off in his own self-made wilderness, he’s unaware of the news, causing his family to become furious with him. Bobby, haunted by his grandmother’s death and disappointed with himself, sinks deeper into his drug addiction. Eventually, he vows to turn his life around. Although the novel’s plot could be more carefully orchestrated at times, it’s consistently realistic and full of life’s sharp edges. Although Bobby adopts a carefree attitude around other characters, the author reveals his latent anxieties and psychological difficulties as he goes through tough times. Throughout, Howard’s descriptions and dialogue bounce off the pages: “[T]here was enough speed, smoke, oil, pent-up rage, and girl-skin to make any red-blooded male squeal with delight. Up and down the river was a two-mile bevy of hedonistic fervor, a virtual beach-front wallow pit.” The author’s descriptions believably characterize the quips and cadence of his young protagonist, and offer a unique, vivid and natural voice.

A witty, colorful debut about a young man’s struggle for redemption.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 9781481263269

Page Count: 304

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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