A satisfying, unusual novel.

PRETTY IS

In Mitchell’s debut, two lonely 12-year-old girls develop strong feelings for the man who abducted them.

Their captor, whom they call Zeb, keeps the girls hidden in a lodge in the Adirondacks for two months but doesn't physically harm them. He's eventually killed by the police and the girls are returned home. Years later, when they're both nearly 30, Lois and Carly May seem to have recovered from their abductions and lead fulfilling adult lives. Carly May's changed her name to Chloe Savage and has a moderately successful career as an actress, while Lois, a literature professor in upstate New York, also has an alternate identity. Using the pseudonym Lucy Ledger, she's written a thriller about two kidnapped girls. The book is successful enough to be turned into a movie, and the role of the detective who develops an unhealthy obsession with the intriguing kidnapper goes to none other than Chloe Savage. Chloe, of course, recognizes the plot as her story and begins to revisit her memories of Zeb and their days in the lodge, where the two girls bonded and competed subtly for Zeb's affections. While the story sounds convoluted, it's an interesting and unexpected exploration of the aftermath of an abduction that left invisible scars. At one point, Lois refers to a literary argument that “fiction should adhere to a standard of probability, rather than possibility." Everything about this novel defies probability. By the time Lois and Chloe meet again to talk about their past, many unbelievable things have happened, but this is a novel about stories, truth, and reinvention more than it is a logical thriller about a kidnapping. The voices of the two women are distinctive, each sharp and witty in her own way.

A satisfying, unusual novel.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-148-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2015

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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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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