Kennedy’s (See Mommy Run, 2012) coming-of-age story follows Brooke, a teenage girl struggling to divide her life among her friends, her family, her love interests and an unexpected controlling force.
When both car and cellphone break down, leaving Brooke stranded in a tropical storm, she seeks shelter in what she believes is the house of her mom’s friend. Instead, she’s invited into the home of frail and flamboyant Laura de France, a dizzyingly complex character who is never fully fleshed out. Dialogue flows naturally between the pair; in fact, realistic conversations become the book’s highlight. Claiming to be a 1950s actress who worked alongside the best in the business, Miss de France offers Brooke the opportunity to wear one of Elizabeth Taylor’s dresses to a Valentine’s Day ball. Brooke spends the next eight chapters obsessing over the dress in most of her internal thoughts, though her yearning for the garment is never cultivated into a believable motivation; she “wanted to look really hot for [her boyfriend, Tyler] at Paige’s party [and] to get even with Paige,” the girl with whom her boyfriend had cheated on her. Undercut by such flimsy decisions, Brooke doesn’t grow much, making her somewhat difficult to sympathize with. At the party, one of Brooke’s friends, a film enthusiast, exposes Miss de France as a fraud—she’s not a real actress; the stress from the accusation causes Miss de France to suffer a heart attack. Consumed by guilt from her friend’s accusation, Brooke succumbs to Miss de France’s delicate condition and allows herself to become Miss de France’s “slave.” As Miss de France dominates the girl’s life, Brooke’s world begins to spin out of control: Miss de France has a sudden, fantastical ambition for Brooke to be a movie star; her friends are exasperated with being neglected; and she has a host of new romantic interests. With multiple engaging plot twists, the basics of a strong story are here, but the rather flat main characters merely react to events instead of using their evolving personalities.

More character depth would help fill out this story about a young woman finding herself.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1612357966

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Melange Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2015

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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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