A well-crafted, believable story of youthful choices and adult consequences.


Four teenagers navigate tough choices about their individual and collective futures in Kohmstedt’s coming-of-age novel set in a 1990s Chicago suburb.

Eric “Ike” Eisenhower begins his senior year of high school much like many teenagers do: making fun of the students stuck on school buses as he rides past in the passenger seat of a friend’s car. The Krauts, as Ike and his three childhood friends call themselves in a nod to their shared German heritage, are all instantly relatable characters. There’s K.C., the head-banging athlete with a mane of hair the ladies can’t wait to run their fingers through; Jack, the portly, gritty youth heavily influenced by his motorcycle-loving stepfather; and Tom, the perfect-attendance record holder with an affinity for hip-hop. Ike falls somewhere in the middle: empathetic captain of the track team, street-smart and steadfastly loyal to his crew. But the Krauts’ dynamic changes when Ike’s creepy neighbor, Wally, makes his way into the group, first as the butt of a joke and then as Jack’s wingman when the other boys team up. Jack regards Wally as the fifth Kraut, but the others find Wally weird and unpleasant, especially when they discover more about him. Ultimately, Ike must learn how to balance his fractured friendships, an extremely needy girlfriend and a growing crush on a locker-mate—all while coping with the return of his lowlife father. Kohmstedt weaves each of the book’s numerous subplots seamlessly into the main narrative. The prose is marked by well-paced action, smart structure and realistic, fully developed supporting characters. The author is particularly adept at creating authentic dialogue that would not seem out of place if overheard at a high school, with robust players who don’t stoop to clichéd stereotypes.

A well-crafted, believable story of youthful choices and adult consequences.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1450579773

Page Count: 248

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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