Entertaining though not groundbreaking zombie survival story.

Those Who Are Left

In Stricklin’s debut, a zombie apocalypse brings four people together on a quest to find safe haven.

Whether they’re called zombies, walkers, or—as they’re called here—screamers, the image of a mindless mob on the hunt can be a powerful metaphor, an interesting thought experiment for reassessing our human priorities, or an excuse for adventure. Stricklin’s debut novel falls into the last category. Narrator Derrick nearly gets killed by the first screamer he sees in his barn, until a stranger named Mark saves him. Mark, from Mobile, Alabama, wants to find his sister in Jackson, Mississippi, and Derrick wants to save his wife in New Orleans, so the two start off on a road trip, rescuing a beautiful doctoral student named Katy on the way. As is typical in zombie stories, there are some close calls, as when Derrick and Mark get attacked by screamers in a gas station; less typically, the three of them get into conversations about their favorite bands and similar topics new friends discuss. Also common with zombie stories, some of the danger comes from other humans. When they reach Jackson, they discover that a few of the survivors are either trigger-happy or insane; the friends also find themselves caught in an attempt to infiltrate a human camp to stop their dangerous plans. In many ways, this is a pleasant and breezily told zombie adventure story; yet when Stricklin deviates from the norm—say, in giving Derrick psychic flashes of his wife—such detours are generally more perplexing than interesting. Occasionally, the writing can be rather odd, as when Mark screams, “I have revenge to exact,” or when “Blood popped out like a tiny water balloon busted on his face.” There are hints that something bigger than a zombie outbreak is afoot, which is also somewhat surprising, though readers may not find the surprise terribly engaging.

Entertaining though not groundbreaking zombie survival story.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-41533-7

Page Count: 394

Publisher: Barking Dog

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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