A compelling tale of simmering madness that’s often harrowing.

THE BEDWETTER

JOURNAL OF A BUDDING PSYCHOPATH

In Howard’s (The Adamson Family, 2017, etc.) psychological thriller, a disturbed, 20-something man struggles with twisted desires.

Russell Pisarek is an animal technician who lives with his younger sister, Becky, in Pittsburgh. He was a troubled child, predominantly due to his abusive mother, Melanie, whom he unaffectionately dubs “Melanoma.” Every time Russell wet his bed, which was frequently, Melanie would beat him and tell his father, Jody, to shave the boy’s head. His high school classmates learned about his bedwetting and consequently tormented him. Now 26, Russell has begun wetting the bed again for the first time in years. He’s worried that it may take him to a “bad place”; his past includes drugs and animal cruelty. His relationship with Becky’s son, Aiden, offers him a glimmer of hope, though, as he loves the boy wholeheartedly. But when Becky suggests that Russell move out of the town house, his problems escalate—he can’t afford to live alone and can’t find a roommate. He’s also determined to fulfill his sexual fantasy of shaving a woman’s head, and soon, he no longer cares whether the woman is a willing participant. Howard’s novel treks into bleak territory, depicting Russell’s unsettling, recurring dream of humiliating his mother as well as scenes of violence, which are few but intense. It’s primarily a solid character study as Russell regrets his past transgressions and strives to improve himself. Howard’s prose is unrefined and graphic, and its unfiltered depictions of brutality can be cringe-inducing. There are also many reminders of the narrator’s flaws, and the text includes numerous, generally inappropriate emoticons and “LOLz.” The final act is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the bloodiest, but there are also a couple of satisfying plot turns before the story ends.

A compelling tale of simmering madness that’s often harrowing.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73370-090-0

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Three First Names

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2019

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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