A solid, if occasionally uneven, cross-cultural coming-of-age tale.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

A Haitian immigrant recounts her struggles to find happiness in the United States.

In this historical novel, Fortune tells an immigration story through the eyes of Cynthia Josaphat, a Haitian girl sent to live with her father in Massachusetts as a teen. Cynthia, along with her siblings Sheila and Paul, moves in with her father, Michel, called Micho. He is both determined to have his children with him and neglectful of them, often to an abusive degree (“All three of us were breaking down in the house,” Cynthia says at one point). Cynthia grapples with learning English and adapting to life in a new country as well as Micho’s unreasonable expectations. She also misses her mother and her extended family in Haiti. After her mother’s death, Cynthia finds that her relationship with Micho deteriorates further. She begins to fend for herself, living with friends and relatives in Massachusetts and Georgia while trying to finish school, keep a job, and handle bouts of depression. Cynthia moves from place to place and from one bad relationship to another, dealing with the challenges of poverty and trying to balance her needs against the expectation that she will make a better life for herself in the U.S. than she could have in Haiti. Cynthia’s distant, first-person narration gives a retrospective feel to the text. “Georgia was a tough place to try to find work back then,” she explains, “that was before digital video disks (DVDs) and the internet were popular” is another clue to the never precisely defined era the tale takes place in. This approach often leaves the book feeling more like a memoir than a novel. But Fortune does an excellent job of worldbuilding, bringing the story’s multiple settings to life and conveying the stress and confusion Cynthia feels as she tries to navigate challenging situations made more difficult by the cultural context she finds herself in. Cynthia’s ultimate triumph, delivered in an epilogue, is satisfying.

A solid, if occasionally uneven, cross-cultural coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1735092881

Page Count: 260

Publisher: 5ms Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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