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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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