Doesn’t pack the fireworks, but that’s not where the story lives—it’s in the day-to-day lives of its well-drawn characters...

LOOKING FOR REDFEATHER

Collison’s coming-of-age novel follows three teenagers who leave their homes to try to find themselves and escape less-than-perfect circumstances.

Ramie Redfeather lives with his mother and little brother and longs to find his father, known as Redfeather, a musician who never made it big, though locals recognize him. Trying to catch up with him at a gig in Denver, Ramie hitchhikes from his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., and meets Chas Sweeney, a kid from nearby Baltimore whose mother is on life support. In denial about his dysfunctional family back home, Chas stole his grandmother’s Cadillac to drive across the country. In Denver, they meet up with LaRoux, formerly Faith Appleby, who has run away from her strict religious household to perform in a music contest in Austin. All three characters are well-drawn, and though the circumstances that draw them together seem a bit forced, their relationship feels real. They’re three lost kids, geographically and spiritually, yet they’re specific and recognizable types. Ramie is strong, loyal and keeps to himself. Chas is smart and a bit irritating but boundlessly enthusiastic, and despite his confusion about what to do with his life, he has a good heart. LaRoux is beautiful and talented but flighty. Much to the author’s credit, all of them are believably flawed. At times, though, the narrative gets muddled when the three kids’ stories drift into navel-gazing and away from the plot, but Collison’s prose is nonetheless clean and efficient. The resolutions of Ramie’s and LaRoux’s quests are fairly predictable but still well-laid, though Chas’s story turns out to be the more intriguing one, especially in the end.

Doesn’t pack the fireworks, but that’s not where the story lives—it’s in the day-to-day lives of its well-drawn characters and their crises.  

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989365307

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Fiction House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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