Hardly Jane Austen, but fun nonetheless.

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THE BOY I LOVED BEFORE

13 Going On 30 in reverse—every bit as fluffy, and every bit as entertaining.

Just when you thought chick-lit was washed up (or had graduated to the Allison Pearson married-with-babies stage of life), out comes a Bridget-like tale with a new twist. Colgan (Amanda’s Wedding, 2004), in her fifth novel, introduces heroine Flora Scurrison. Flora (predictably) has it all, and she (predictably) is a little dissatisfied: raking in the money, but working so many hours she can’t possibly spend it; lovely boyfriend, but not sure she wants to marry him. At her best friend’s wedding, Flora lazily wishes she could return to adolescence and do it all over again. Shazam! The wish comes true. Flora wakes up in her girlhood bedroom, wearing her childhood nightgown, a nasty zit threatening to pop out on her forehead—and she’s returned to age sixteen. Funny thing is, she hasn’t exactly gone back in time. It’s still 2003, now exactly one month before that best friend’s wedding. (Tashy, said best friend, is still a thirtysomething, and recognizes teenaged Flora, as does Flora’s steadfast beau.) We spend a month following young Flora to school, to the mall, and to parties where she snogs hunky young Justin. She heroically tries to prevent her parents from splitting up, and she helps Tashy get through her prenuptial case of cold feet. But as Tashy’s wedding, redux, looms nearer, Flora knows she has to make a choice: attend the wedding and wish herself back to adulthood, or stay sweet sixteen, and do it all again. The ending isn’t exactly suspenseful, but it is surprisingly satisfying. Fast-paced dialogue is the sine qua non of the genre, and Colgan doesn’t disappoint. Those tired of the tawdry sex scenes that seem to comprise ever-greater percentages of chick-lit pages may also be pleased by the relative lack of lascivious detail.

Hardly Jane Austen, but fun nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33198-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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