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

10TH GRADE

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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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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