Less a novel than a listmaking—of clothes, of beaches, of screamingly obvious observations.

THE PERFECT MANHATTAN

Oh no! I’ve graduated from Columbia and have no skills! Rent is high! Wait, bartending could be fun. . .

It’s official: New York is played out. The pavement has been so thoroughly pounded by legions of eager young novelistas that not a shred of inspiration seems to be left. The ne plus ultra of reductive formula (cute everygirl/insecurity/sassy best friend/designer labels) is this one, written by a pair of best friend/bartenders with writerly aspirations. It’s not really a novel, being plotless, and its characters being more easily differentiated by their clothes than their personalities. It’s really a long whine about how hard it is to be good-looking and college-educated, with friends and loving family, not to mention a great postgrad career bartending in downtown Manhattan and a ludicrously hip Hamptons nightclub. That’s the dilemma faced by blander-than-bland Cassie, who leaves Columbia with a yen for screenwriting that her parents won’t kick in any more funds for and so gets into liquor-slinging. Cassie seems to be good behind the bar, which is lucky since her writing lacks a little something: “There are so many lost souls drifting around Manhattan, and they all seem to gravitate towards bars. It’s a lot to deal with at 4:30 in the morning.” There’s some business with a Hamptons preppie whom Cassie starts dating but who seems embarrassed to be seen around someone of her class, not to mention reams of scarcely needed information about the ins and outs of bartending.

Less a novel than a listmaking—of clothes, of beaches, of screamingly obvious observations.

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7679-1849-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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