An idiosyncratic but ultimately engaging tale about a contemporary teen forced to live as a slave in the 1850s.

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HIP HOP'S HORRIBLE NIGHTMARE

In this debut YA novel, a young black rapper finds himself transported back to the age of slavery.

Three new slaves arrive at the Deauville Plantation, the home of the elderly Sean Deauville, known throughout South Carolina as a man who can break even the most rebellious worker. But one of the new acquisitions is no ordinary slave. Donald “Hip Hop” Berry is an irreverent, teenage rapper from modern-day New York. After getting admonished by a group of his female peers for using derogatory language in his lyrics, Hip Hop is struck by a car, knocked into a coma, and wakes up as a slave in 1855. At the plantation, Hip Hop enters a hell on Earth he could never have imagined. A freshly tortured slave hangs from a tree by a hook; malnourished children fight one another for food; and an overseer with a whip enforces Sean’s brutal law: “In that instant, Hip Hop experiences more pain than he has ever felt before. He screams in agony when the blood-clotted cowskin slices his flesh apart. Immediately, blood starts to gush from his wounds, and he falls to the ground, crying like never before.” Forced into cruel servitude, Hip Hop begins to learn the real meanings behind some of the slurs he’s employed in his raps, coming to terms with the true violence that intolerance can wreak on human beings. He also finds, in the company of the other slaves, a sense of community—and even a leadership role—that he never had in New York. Hip Hop might not know how to get back to his own time, but after a woman named Moses tells him how to reach freedom, he understands he has to help his people get there. Sears writes in an expressive, conversational prose that never shies away from the ruthless details of slavery. But his lack of subtlety sometimes leads to clumsy moments, as when a physician explains to Hip Hop’s parents what has happened to their son: “ ‘This is very unusual, but he appears to be dreaming,’ says the doctor. ‘Apparently the blow to the head knocked him out and sent him on a terrible journey. By that, I mean he is unconscious in our world, but he might be wide-awake somewhere within a vivid dream he is having.’ ” There is a broad, homespun quality to both the writing and the plot. The author’s project is overt, and the characters generally say exactly what they mean. Even the images by debut illustrator Cephas that accompany the story have a frank, folk-art quality that sometimes works beautifully and sometimes falls flat. That said, the novel’s heart is in the right place, and its rough-hewn earnestness quickly becomes charming. Yes, the plot is predictable, and yes, Hip Hop makes a speech at the end saying what he’s learned, but some issues are Manichaean enough that subtlety is not particularly needed. Slavery was awful. Intolerance is wrong. Sears, Cephas, and Hip Hop are happy to remind readers of these facts.

An idiosyncratic but ultimately engaging tale about a contemporary teen forced to live as a slave in the 1850s.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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