Unparalleled in voice yet a bit lost in the big room of the novel—as if its pieces were looking for corners to hide in,...


Hecht’s first novel, after her glorious stories (Do the Windows Open?, 1997), is both treat and trial for lovers of her earlier fiction.

Here is the same voice as before, of the smartly independent but neurasthenic (unhappy and in analysis forever) narrator who summers in Nantucket and is so wonderfully opinionated about Americans and their society as to raise the ghost of Mencken, chortling delightedly (who else writing today would say, or be able to say, that “I [gave] up socializing with the dull, and then had to give up socializing altogether”?). For those whose brains are still alert with skepticism in this drugged and latter-day age, the voice is tough, spiky, funny, and refreshing—even if its possessor is “a hollowed-out woman without a soul” and does fixate on “emptiness and nothingness.” It’s a voice honest, rigorous, and engaging—but Hecht’s novel just doesn’t provide it with a story that can come up to its level. Here again appears “the world renowned reproductive surgeon” Arnold Loquesto, cold and dour. Now, it’s his college-age son the narrator is friends with, having met him years earlier and still in an intense telephone friendship with him. The two are wonderfully simpatico, and the usual Hechtian sparks fly as they converse and complain (“His whole life, I realized, was made up of these last two crummy decades. No wonder he was cynical and discouraged . . .”) about everything from dumb song titles to aging hippies who wear gray-hair ponytails. The crux is that the boy, raised by dysfunctional parents in a dysfunctional age, is actually a heroine addict—and that, as a result, something dreadful happens. If only the reader could feel for the boy even a quarter of the intensity the narrator does, there’d be weight galore to go with all this wit—but the book tacks without ballast to its half-lost ending.

Unparalleled in voice yet a bit lost in the big room of the novel—as if its pieces were looking for corners to hide in, brilliantly. (For an excerpt of The Unprofessionals go to www.kirkusreviews.com.)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2003

ISBN: 1-4000-6174-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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