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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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