A pleasingly complex entry in a YA SF epic.

PASSAGE OF TIME

From the Seeker of Time series , Vol. 3

Buckler (Stillness of Time, 2018, etc.) continues the interplanetary adventures of superpowered twins in this third installment in a YA series.

Elara and Cyrus were born on the beautiful but turbulent planet Aroonyx but raised as normal high school students on Earth. Their guide and mentor, Jax, who has the power to instantly travel between the two worlds, explained to them that Aroonyx is divided into Solin and Lunin people, all ruled by brutal dictator Zenith. As this installment opens, it’s been six weeks since Jax abandoned Elara and Cyrus—an especially traumatic development for Elara, who’d fallen in love with Jax. The story finds Elara and Cyrus deeply embedded in the planet’s struggle against Zenith’s forces on Aroonyx, and, as Elara reflects, “defeating Zenith without Jax’s guidance seemed like a lost cause.” War is imminent, but, unsurprisingly, Jax doesn’t stay missing for long; his emotional connection with Elara is the cornerstone of the series, and he’s also a key YA character type: the brooding hero; at one point, Elara even says that he’d make “a great Jon Snow” from Game of Thrones. Along the way, Elara and Cyrus must also face off with members of Zenith’s elite Inner Circle. Overall, this series entry successfully amps up both the political intrigue and the personal drama. Buckler has always shown a good deal of skill with dialogue and pacing, but both are considerably stronger here. The book offers very little in the way of exposition for readers who may be encountering the series for the first time, but Buckler still manages to incorporate enough information to make it possible to jump right into the story, including an initial character list. The fact that matters of world-changing importance are linked to sappy individual romances can seem a bit silly at times; Elara even asks at one point, “Is it too late to save the people of Aroonyx? Is it too late to save my relationship with Jax?” But the book’s other pleasures more than compensate for this.

A pleasingly complex entry in a YA SF epic.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73310-570-5

Page Count: 682

Publisher: Gratus Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2020

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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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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