By turns comic and tragic, readers must form their own opinions about what truly constitutes sanity in an insane world.

PETER SQUARED

Clinical psychologist Goldberg’s first novel explores the twin concepts of outsider status and insanity, with a mathematical twist.

Peter Branstill is obsessed with cleanliness, order and peep shows. A chronically unambitious accountant in New York City, Peter does his best to combat his chaotic world with meticulous mathematical calculations, keeping track of everything from his clothing combinations to the amount of dirt on a park bench where he sits for lunch. With no friends, an abusive aunt as his only living family, and distorted memories of both childhood bullies and his mentally unstable mother, Peter is a perfect candidate for therapy, but he doesn’t know how to engage during sessions in order to progress. Instead, he “self-medicates” by making continuous calculations, recording his findings in a series of notebooks, and visiting peep shows after work, carefully concealing his social ineptitude. Eventually, he falls into a strange friendship with John, a mental patient who engages him in the park with requests for a smoke, and Peter’s whole world begins to expand by small degrees. Though Peter remains confused by life and incapable of many normal, everyday interactions, he seeks to connect with John in his own way, making special sacrifices in order to maintain their tenuous friendship. The two at first seem to make an odd couple, but in actuality they’re not so different. Though John rails against the world’s unfairness and eagerness to label him as insane, Peter has floated along with his own labels for decades, convinced he is the loser and failure that some truly insane individuals have made him out to be. The story itself is strange, yet characters are as well-developed as they can be through Peter’s skewed lens, and actions make sense when read from this impaired perspective. The author clearly brings years of insights from working with mentally impaired individuals, channeling an irrational yet thoughtful point of view in order to convey marginal experiences with skill and authenticity. While the text can occasionally be tedious, thanks to Peter's obsession with minute details, these calculations are largely presented as a source of humor for the reader to ponder.

By turns comic and tragic, readers must form their own opinions about what truly constitutes sanity in an insane world.

Pub Date: July 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615665061

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Wyndmoor Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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