A frank and funny coming-of-age story with a rousing soundtrack.

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My Name Is Tom

In this music-powered story, a young man sets out to reclaim his prized record collection after pawning it during a period of drug-fueled indiscretion.

The result of a teenage pregnancy in 1970, the protagonist is given up for adoption as a newborn and raised by a terribly uptight mother and a much more lackadaisical father in Birmingham, England. Thomas Luke Joyce isn’t terribly ambitious or clever, but when he buys his first single at the age of 13—The Style Council’s “Speak Like a Child”—he finds a reason for being. Throughout the 1980s, Tom amasses a massive collection of vinyl from the likes of The Cure, New Order, and The Smiths, working for his accountant father solely to make enough money to buy more records. But when his friend Gary introduces him to rave culture, everything changes. Despite hating the “rubbish” music with every fiber of his being, Tom finds himself spending every Friday high on Ecstasy, dancing until dawn. Soon, he starts selling his beloved records to fund his new lifestyle. But when one night out goes awry thanks to a tangle with some small-time drug dealers, Tom decides to go straight and starts working full-time so that he can rebuild his collection record by record. Yet his concern for his old friend Gary, still caught up in that troubled, drug-addled world, throws another complication into his efforts to lead a simpler life. Fans of Nick Hornby’s English-accented musings on music, obsession, and growing up will find much to love about Reeves’ debut novel. Tom is an insanely likable Everyman—he might not be an intellectual, but his smart-alecky sense of humor will endear him to most readers, especially when he spouts such gems as: “But then other things had positive names but weren’t always good. Take heroin, for instance, the name for a heroic lady but also something that makes you look like Gordon’s wife.” While the madcap climax is a bit too absurd and involves too many well-placed coincidences to be believable, it doesn’t stop this story from being enjoyable down to the last syllable.

A frank and funny coming-of-age story with a rousing soundtrack.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5049-9334-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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