SISTER SAFETY PIN

A down-to-earth love story with a feisty, punk-feminist, lesbian twist. It's the 1980s. Think Sex Pistols, safety pins, Doc Marten boots, and blue hair. Melany embraces punk, a sound as discordant as she feels—shocking, offensive, ``fuck-you music.'' At 17, longing to escape high school, Melany passes the California Proficiency Exam and enrolls in college as an English major. There she suffers through American Lit, wondering ``why these straight white guys who could afford to fuck their way through Europe were so angry,'' meets fellow punk, like-minded English major Patti, who becomes her best friend, and falls hard for a woman named Iso. At first, Melany feels conflicted about the sexual identity thing, worrying that she'll lose it in poetry class and let slip that she slept with a woman the night before when she means to comment on iambic pentameter. She also wonders how she could be a lesbian when ``women's music'' like that of Holly Near gives her a headache. Iso doesn't want the hassle, so she moves on to someone else, but in the meantime, the lesbian teacher in one of Melany's Women's Lit courses becomes a confidante and role model. She tries getting over Iso, but, arguments from Patti and Iso's own sister (a sweet 14-year-old punker with whom Melany bonds immediately) notwithstanding, she still finds herself heartbroken. When Patti comes out, despite a long discussion about why they should keep things platonic, Patti and Melany become lovers. The two maintain a long-distance relationship when Patti goes to grad school in New York and Melany goes to D.C., but, after four years, they decide to go back to being pals. Soon Iso arrives on the scene to break Melany's heart once more—only this time, the most unlikely person arrives to pick up the pieces. A unique voice and wry takes on feminism, sexuality, political correctness, and punk music make this startlingly sweet, albeit not too deep, debut a standout.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56341-051-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more