An unquestionably eerie baddie helps this uncomplicated but dark tale stand out.

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A Stalker's Journey

A two-bit con artist focuses his aggression on a local paperboy and his friends in Lukegord’s (The Haunted Trail, 2014, etc.) thriller.

Curtis Ware, six years after serving time in juvie for a B&E in Iowa, now makes his home in Riverside, Maine. He runs a few scams, including cheating people in a carnival game and accepting donations for a disabled veterans’ taxi service that doesn’t actually do anything. But a small group of preteen hellions, including paperboy Ace Gordon, sends him in an entirely different direction. They pelt his car with snowballs and later sneak into his shack, unaware that he owns them both. Ace inadvertently leaves behind his newspaper bag, and he and his pals become Curtis’ mortal enemies in a series of increasingly dangerous encounters that span more than a decade. The author provides stellar coverage of both its villain and his young victims. The narrative, with its intermittent dialogue, often comes across as a chronicle relaying just the basic facts. However, Curtis’ actions are inherently creepy, and his behavior becomes more and more unsettling as the story progresses. For example, he shows up in costume at a Halloween party just to torment Ace, and he moves from chucking rocks at a football game and tapping on windows to chasing the kids with a buck knife. Lukegord provides readers with a modicum of sympathy for Curtis, who was raped and beaten back in juvenile detention. That said, it’s hard to side with a man who grows his fingernails long to use them as weapons, so readers are likely to root for Ace and company instead. The sparse dialogue exchanges can be stiff and sometimes recall Scooby-Doo: “I would’ve gotten away with everything had it not been for those nosy kids!” rants Curtis at one point. Some of the descriptions, too, are repetitive; the story repeatedly refers to Curtis as “disgruntled,” and his actions as “sketchy,” even in a newspaper article detailing one of his crimes. The ending, however, is fittingly disconcerting.

An unquestionably eerie baddie helps this uncomplicated but dark tale stand out.

Pub Date: June 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4909-3021-3

Page Count: 108

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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