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10TH GRADE

Quite a concept: A nice teenager. Parents will be relieved, but fiction without conflict makes little impression.

Weisberg’s debut chronicles a high school sophomore’s life in the first-person, with obvious echoes of The Catcher in the Rye.

Jeremy Reskin, however, is no Holden Caufield. He’s quite sweet, for starters; rather than acidly appraising everyone he knows as “phony,” he’s more likely to tell us that the handsome boy on the baseball team is “a solid good guy. Even in the halls he’s nice to people.” Jeremy plays soccer and fits in pretty well. Though in the fall he hangs out with a group of rebels, he won’t smoke pot with them (“I felt like saying, ‘Sorry I don’t want to kill all my brain cells and probably get arrested some day’”), and he seems better suited to the popular clique that takes him up later in the school year. Sure, he has to settle for just being friends with gorgeous new girl Renee Shopmaker (he finally gets high with her and her hip art-dealer uncle), but second-most-gorgeous Lenea Vovich doesn’t seem like such a comedown to make out with after the prom. Jeremy actually likes his hometown, Hutch Falls, New Jersey (“It has many of the advantages of the city like restaurants and culture but also has low crime and other problems like dirt”), and his parents may annoy him but Mom can really cook and Dad’s kind of an endearing old holdout against the consumer culture Jeremy can’t be bothered to reject. Our hero’s grades aren’t so hot, he spends a lot of time commenting on girls’ Breasts (always capitalized), and he occasionally uses the F-word, but he’s basically a good kid who does a certain amount of growing up in tenth grade: “I learned many lessons like be yourself and let your heart shine.” Nothing wrong with that, but nothing very dramatic about it, either.

Quite a concept: A nice teenager. Parents will be relieved, but fiction without conflict makes little impression.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50584-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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