A comic debut that takes a fast trot through the homosexual coming-of-age of a middle-class North Carolina adolescent: a series of superficial set-pieces mostly, but the novel finally builds when its locale shifts to Washington, D.C. Andy, who ``was always looking for the right candidate,'' fills his loneliness by building a shrine to Jimmy Carter in his bedroom and by calling older men who collect political memorabilia: ``In high school, Andy's goal was to have the biggest Jimmy Carter collection in the whole country.'' Through this obsession, he meets a string of grotesques as well as Preston, who ``models underpants in the `Dads-n-Lads' section of the Sears, Roebuck catalogue.'' As Andy discovers his sexual orientation, he also gets a case of the zits—he ``preferred being called `Pizza Face' to `Monster Face.' '' The story bogs down in some low-rent satire of suburbia and officious types before Andy moves on to Chapel Hill for college and an unrequited crush on roommate Ryan. After participating in a study of a new acne medication (``By the end of the study, Andy's face was coming off'') and meeting Mary Alice (which results in a tepid affair while he fantasizes about Ryan), Andy gets involved in political reporting and nabs a job as an intern in Washington, D.C. His introduction to high-rolling political types, overtly gay young men, and cocaine results (the book's liveliest section) in a bland, unsatisfying affair with manipulative Ryan—Andy finally rejects him by knocking him unconscious—and in an older-but-wiser understanding of the world. Siman is so intent on getting every adolescent humiliation recorded that the final effect is blurry and, in places, sophomoric. Still, the voice is quirky and original, making him a writer to watch.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-8021-1398-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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