Unseemly juvenile antics and unhinged philosophical yakking abound in this boisterous magical-realist novel.
Willy Nilly, a 10-year-old boy living on the outskirts of Bumpkinville, Montana, is a neurotic motor mouth with a grandiose imagination and a penchant for collecting “lucky” pennies—a habit perhaps related to the fact that a very unlucky lightning bolt felled his father. He’s full of cosmic ambition: He wants to be cryogenically frozen and then revived when medical science has cured old age so he can travel the universe in a spaceship. But his more concrete plans tend to misfire, such as a lemonade stand that’s immediately shut down for want of a permit. Better luck comes when he meets Daffodil Peacock, a new girl in class who lives in a palace and collects her own raspberry-flavored tears. They bond over a turtle named Bruce Lee that’s able to telepathically converse with Willy. Daffodil, Bruce and Willy become fast friends, practicing karate together, engaging in debates about “the merits of structuralism versus existentialism,” and mulling “an Aristotelian proof of the proposition that modern cooking shows are eerily similar to ancient forms of alchemical practice.” None of this goes anywhere in particular; instead, Daffodil heads offstage to experience thrilling adventures that readers don’t hear much about while Willy continues to conceive unlikely projects that predictably fizzle. Bricklin has a fertile, teeming comic imagination. However, there’s not much narrative payoff to it: The novel is mainly an excuse for regaling readers with twee notions, overextended japes and drolly precocious dialogue from the mouths of babes. The latter is sophomoric but in no way childlike, unless one knows any 10-year-olds who ask for James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake as a bedtime story. The prose seems overly pleased with its own showy erudition (“I felt like a Roman soldier being ambushed by the Germanic war chief Arminius at the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest”) and sometimes mistakes verbosity (“But is my brain me or am I my brain or am I not my brain or is it the same?”) for profundity. The result often feels as pointless as the title might suggest.

A frenetic but feckless fantasia.

Pub Date: July 14, 2014


Page Count: 134

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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


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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