With all the trappings of straightforward horror, this tale kicks down genre doors to become a glowing adventure.

FAWN

This middle-grade debut stars a girl whose new home borders on woods full of remarkable, dreadful secrets.

Eleven-year-old Freya Ward and her parents have just moved to acreage in the country. She already misses her friends Amanda and Chelsea, who will have to visit on weekends. When the Wards reach their new residence, “a steal for the price,” Freya dashes into the woods behind the old house. After battling through some tough undergrowth, she finds a clearing. She then hears a “hauntingly eerie, yet beautiful” sound. Near a rocky basin of water, she sees something that at first appears to be another mossy boulder. This is Fawn, who looks like a giant lemur who’s hatched from the woods itself. Fawn has entrancing eyes, rows of sharp teeth, and a lovely voice. Freya befriends the strange creature, but when she tries to leave, Fawn threatens to eat her—and the girl barely escapes. Two weeks later, the family has settled in a bit. Freya wonders if she imagined the encounter. She and her father decide to build a treehouse in the woods. It’s then that she meets a ghostly boy with sunken eyes who says, “Look behind the door in the basement.” In this chilling novel, Dougherty tests young horror fans with a Brothers Grimm–style descent into a magical realm called the hollow. Her prose conveys the primordial wonder of the forest, as in the line “Shafts of sunlight that made it through the trees illuminated specks of dust that were floating in the air.” Psychological aspects of the story are just as detailed, as when Freya tries to explain Fawn to Amanda and Chelsea, but “they really did not understand the scope of what was happening...and she envied them a great deal for that.” The author unspools deeper weirdness with the hollow, a labyrinthine inner wood where beings like Twitch, Meathead, and the enigmatic Root await discovery. A satisfying ending should have fans begging to learn what happens next.

With all the trappings of straightforward horror, this tale kicks down genre doors to become a glowing adventure.

Pub Date: April 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2111-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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