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Despite featuring an outsider who’s a bit too removed, this book delivers a fast-paced, energetic tale resonating with...

In this novel, a new international student at a commuter college in Ohio ignites questions of racism, nationalism, and history for a small town.

Fresh from the Paris suburbs, Azza Amari arrives at Northwestern Ohio State College wearing a hijab and holding a bag containing $97,872. “It is my out-of-state tuition, yes?” she responds to the registrar’s shock. The Tunisian-born refugee has already bought into a vision of the classic American college experience. But instead of offering a dorm, programs, and mixers, the small commuter college in Fremont struggles to accommodate her—eventually renting a cheap motel room and having the assistant registrar’s teenage son, Kip Beckelhymer, drive her around in his blue hatchback. Azza becomes intrigued by Kip’s love of history, in particular his obsession with a missing artifact from the local museum: a 19th-century plaster of Paris European pear. Azza agrees to help him and his friend Ryan Langham on their treasure hunts if the boys teach her how to drive. As the unlikely friendship develops, Azza learns more about Kip’s failed romance while the boys have their eyes opened to Islam and the world outside Fremont. Meanwhile, others in the town begin to close ranks, and dangerous clouds of racism and nationalism settle over the campus. Womack (Playing the Angel, 2013) has created a fun, fish-out-of-water tale with heavy implications about today’s world. He has carefully drawn, realistic small-town figures—thanks to sharp dialogue from Kip and Ry especially—to show how quickly open minds can close, building to an emotional and incensing conclusion. Azza’s overly polite, quizzical nature provides plenty of bright, comedic moments, but her characterization overall is perplexing. Her utter naiveté about bank accounts and universities seems to reinforce stereotypes rather than undo them. It would make more sense for Azza to be from a tiny, isolated village rather than the mean streets of a global, Western city—and the whole story would greatly benefit from its central figure being worldlier.

Despite featuring an outsider who’s a bit too removed, this book delivers a fast-paced, energetic tale resonating with today’s most troubling and important issues.

Pub Date: May 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-264-9

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2019

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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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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