The novel hobbles itself with excessive details, but Lance’s journey is a lively, satisfying one.




Debut author Joevon presents an urban novel about an aspiring songwriter’s quest to transcend his surroundings.

When the reader first meets Lance Adams, he’s not happy. Lance wrote a smash song for the rapper J-Money and, although Lance received $10,000 for his efforts, he feels he deserves more (“He’s making MILLIONS off of my LIFE!”). As the reader learns, Lance’s life certainly makes for good hip-hop copy. He grew up in the Marcus Garvey Projects in Brooklyn surrounded by drug abuse and violence. He spent three years in prison and is quick to throw a punch. Now that he’s a free man, he dreams of making music and spends long hours at Barnes & Noble writing lyrics. At the bookstore, he meets the thoughtful Ayana, and they eventually have a son together. Lance looks to be on the right path, but his old troubles haunt him. His is a world where slighting the wrong person can end poorly, and drugs can drain resources and end lives in a flash. Lance points out the stupidity of stealing an iPhone, saying that the $700 phone isn’t worth the risk: “A crackhead can smoke that away in ten seconds!” Halfway through the story, following an incident with a gun, Lance enters a strange realm where he is taught various life lessons. He emerges as someone who has journeyed to the recesses of his own mind. He also emerges as a very different person. The excitement for the reader comes in finding out how Lance will succeed now that he is both physically and mentally changed. And there is plenty of excitement to be had: bullets fly, egos collide, and music is made even if the storyline sometimes sags with mundane details, including Polonius-like advice Lance gives his young son about borrowing money. The reader need not know so many specifics, but the payoff is with the protagonist. Lance is often down but will he ever be out? It’s a question that keeps the story moving until the very end.

The novel hobbles itself with excessive details, but Lance’s journey is a lively, satisfying one.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5136-1473-1

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Movement Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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