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

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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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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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