A skillful exploration of a tween boy’s coming-of-age.

A TUNNEL IN THE PINES

During summer vacation, a boy faces difficult choices during a club initiation in Greene’s debut YA novel.

School is almost over, and narrator Wills and his best friend, Andrew Wyler, have plans for a new club called the Annelids, named after worms that Andrew finds interesting. The invitation list includes the boys’ closest friends, but inevitably, Wills’ older brother, Taylor, and Taylor’s friend Strat Sherwood find out about the club. They insist on being part of it, too, but they’re bullies who have a tendency to take things over. “Having Taylor involved in this club is not making my life any easier,” thinks Wills. At the first club meeting, Wills makes a suggestion for an initiation: “How about we dig a really deep tunnel and make like the worms do, join our powerful brothers underground?” Taylor and Strat seize on this idea, liking the thought of a bravery test to weed out the weak. The boys organize and carry out their plan, finding a good location in the pine woods, gathering tools and plywood, making scale drawings, and digging out stones and roots. During this process, Wills finds Andrew’s journal and discovers that his friend has severe asthma, but he keeps the secret, as his friend is already picked on enough. When the tunnel is complete, the initiation rites will test the boys’ courage and resourcefulness. Greene ably presents the contradictions and difficulties of growing up from a boy’s point of view. Wills and his friends are at an age when girls are still “others” and boys fear looking weak more than anything else in the world. Wills, however, is kind; noticing his mother’s laugh lines, he thinks, “It’s my mission to get her laughing as often as I can.” Still, pressure from the older, challenging boys gets to Wills; he has to admit that he’s been a jerk sometimes, that Andrew has reason not to trust him with the news of his diagnosis, and that maybe he’s become too much like his brother. The way that Wills navigates his competing instincts is realistic and moving.

A skillful exploration of a tween boy’s coming-of-age.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-945980-57-5

Page Count: 134

Publisher: North Country Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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