A sometimes-engaging novel with unsubtle but timely morals.



A safety officer’s daughter and a newly naturalized citizen decide where their allegiances lie in Doty’s YA dystopian debut.

As a requirement for induction into the Safety Officer Academy, Jenny Morgan must act as a buddy to an “opportunity person”—a teenager who’s recently moved out of the immigrant ghettos known as Homesteads to become an American citizen. Although Jenny wants to become a safety officer like her mother—and work with the “viewers,” who monitor people at all times—Jenny would rather spend time flirting with her crush, the rebellious Kyle Foster, than watching over her “buddy,” Hannah Cossack. Hannah, the daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant, is having trouble adjusting to citizen life; Jenny’s friends bully her, and she’s uncomfortable with the law stating that all citizens over the age of 14 must carry a gun called a "Protector." Kyle introduces Hannah to bad-boy Jonah and their anti-Governcorp group, but Hannah worries that joining it herself would endanger her family. Although most citizens mindlessly follow instructions from the Broadcasters (a type of public-address system), Kyle announces his intention to protest at the upcoming government-run parade, and for the first time, Jenny and Hannah are forced to make decisions for themselves. Should Jenny report Kyle to her mother? And should Hannah endanger her family’s fragile new citizenship to fight alongside him? The messages in this novel lack subtlety, and similarities to dystopian classics, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, prevent the worldbuilding from feeling truly fresh. A debate about peaceful and violent protest is brought up only briefly and could have used more nuance, and any discussion of racism’s role in anti-immigrant sentiment is conspicuously absent. Even so, the novel’s exploration of pro-gun trends feels chillingly real. Alternating first-person narration allows readers to empathize with both Jenny’s and Hannah’s multifaceted moral dilemmas. Although much of the novel is focused on everyday school life—with its unquestioned emphasis on shopping and crushes—the suspense eventually builds to a frantic pace during the parade, and the open-ended conclusion will force readers, too, to think for themselves.

A sometimes-engaging novel with unsubtle but timely morals.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-89761-4

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Four Wise Monkeys Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


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.


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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