An infuriating, frightening, and compassionate story of abuse.


A vulnerable 14-year-old girl becomes the victim of a beloved teacher in Levine’s debut novel.

Five years ago, when Alexandra “Alex” Geller was 9 years old, her mother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Alex’s father, Dr. Richard Geller, was emotionally ill-equipped to deal with raising Alex and her two younger brothers, Jason and Ari. Enter biology teacher Paula Hanover, who’s beautiful, fun-loving, and rebellious; she befriends Alex, who’s a student in her class. Paula praises the teenager, offers her guidance, and gradually becomes the single most important person in her life. To Alex, Paula is a parental figure who fills the excruciating void left by her mother’s death, and for the first time in many years, Alex feels that she’s not alone. Paula, in turn, plays upon the young girl’s insecurities and her need for validation and love, manipulating her through a combination of reward and punishment. She begins driving Alex home at the end of the school day and shares inappropriately intimate details about her own life. She also slaps Alex, painfully squeezes the back of her neck, and eventually starts spanking her. Alex accepts all this as proof that Paula loves her; early on, she begins keeping a list (“Ways I Know Paula Likes Me”) that she adds to throughout the novel. The very worst punishment for her is when Paula periodically freezes her out. The author, a marriage and family therapist, focuses on a subtler form of abuse than most readers will be accustomed to reading about. Alex is the articulate, first-person narrator of the tale; readers experience her obsession and emotional deconstruction from the inside, and it’s a chilling ride. Levine effectively weaves her cautionary tale by drawing from her years as a therapist dealing with “trauma stories.” Her deep understanding of “grooming” behavior—the process by which an abuser leads a victim into a dependent relationship—helps her to create a character that jumps off the page. Overall, this is an important addition to the discussion of abuse prevention and detection.

An infuriating, frightening, and compassionate story of abuse.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5355-1158-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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