A slender, fast-paced, fever-dreamed excursion that, despite a lack of plot, becomes undeniably addictive.


A rollicking, entertaining adventure on the open road starring two ferocious youths fueled by booze, pot, and canned spaghetti.

Screenwriter and author LaPoma (Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, 2015) combines the restlessness of youth with the lure of drugs and dreams in his latest novel about young men desperate to escape the confines of their stagnant lives. This character-driven novel opens not with fanfare or history, but with action and movement. Danny boards his friend Ian’s Toyota Camry for what they hope to be a life-changing cross-country road trip, leaving Buffalo for the West. Having recently graduated college, both rough-and-tumble, music-loving men hit the road without a game plan or a goal or even much money, just their desire to start a band and to “write songs and play them on the streets of the Haight.” The novel is frenetically narrated by Danny, a hyperactive, easily agitated 22-year-old with a history of psychological issues, paranoia, and antagonistic internal voices—not to mention the private pain of his chronic anal fissures, which plays out in a series of panicked, agony-wracked bathroom sequences. They stop in Illinois to visit mutual friend Ricky, and Danny smokes the kind of weed he hopes will stave off his anxiety, knowing that “there was no place I could hide if shit turned bad.” Thankfully, in the glaring absence of real plot points, LaPoma adds back story to flesh out the origins of Danny and Ian’s friendship—Danny’s love for a girl named Delilah and their mutual affinity for music. A stop in Iowa leaves room for more music and marijuana. As they arrive in Colorado amid a haze of parties and drugs, the men’s bickering escalates and becomes more personal. They finally arrive in California, where the party continues from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, and the travelers mingle with “hip sexy people everywhere, all groomed and painted and waxed to perfection.” LaPoma, not seeming to know what to do with his perpetually blitzed, spun-out characters, leaves them in Vegas, where they “smoke…a shitload of pot,” have a quick epiphany, decide to stop running, and head home to reboot their lives.

A slender, fast-paced, fever-dreamed excursion that, despite a lack of plot, becomes undeniably addictive.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9988403-2-1

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Almendro Arts

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.


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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