An endearing story about a teenager, his mentor, and what a difference true, unselfish love can make.


Running Wide Open

From the Full Throttle series , Vol. 1

A coming-of-age story about a teenager who, despite a rough start, starts to find himself thanks to stock car racing and an uncle who actually cares.

Nowak’s (Redline, 2013, etc.) novel centers on Cody, a sensitive, artistic 15-year-old kid from Portland, Oregon, whose mild rebellious streak has left his distant and uncompassionate parents extremely unenthused. At the start of the novel, Cody, who secretly wants to be a writer, gets caught by the police spraying graffiti at the zoo. Cody’s father gives him two options: go to military school to get his act straight, or go live with his “black sheep” uncle Race, who lives a few hours away in Eugene. Cody chooses to move in with his uncle, and when he arrives, he is less than pleased with his new living situation—the “bedroom” of a trailer. While Cody and Race get off to a rocky start (e.g., Race catches Cody drinking some of his beers, then stealing a street sign), Cody grows to like his uncle when he introduces Cody to his passion—fixing and racing stock cars. The troubled teenager’s life begins to rapidly improve, with new interests in things like cars and karate as well as new friends such as Race’s mentor, Kasey. Then something unexpected happens: his uncle gets into a bad wreck on the racetrack, suffering a traumatic brain injury that lands him in the hospital. His future uncertain, Cody is left wondering if he’ll be forced to return to live with his folks or grandmother or if he can find a way to stay in the new environment that has been making him happy. Nowak capably depicts a realistic, likable teenager with typical teenager flaws. Cody is moody and rebellious, disobeying his parents and uncle; yet he’s also sweet and bright with a great sense of humor—and a great T-shirt collection. One reads: “I have animal magnetism. When I go outside squirrels stick to me.” Nowak also paints a vivid, thrilling portrait of the stock car racing world, which will surely be enjoyed by racing enthusiasts.

An endearing story about a teenager, his mentor, and what a difference true, unselfish love can make.

Pub Date: June 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-937167-00-4

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Webfoot Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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