by Mark Duff ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2019
A choppy, experimental tale that follows some students and their teacher during a shift in their school’s curriculum.
A debut literary novel presents a kaleidoscopic view of the everyday passions and politics of high school.
Seniors Sialia Torres and James Malachite are students at Elysium Hills High School. Sialia studies art and finds beauty in the world around her while James plays soccer and goofs off with his friends. Their social circle revolves around the science classroom of Zach Tyndall, a 10-year veteran teacher who believes in his students even as he has started to become jaded by the job. Tyndall and the other teachers are angered over a new curriculum introduced by Principal Jonathan Stufa and an education consultant. “Spring Forward” is designed by a publishing company to align with standardized tests, though the teachers know that little of the money for three days of in-house training will actually make it to the classroom. The students chafe under the new conditions while learning about biology, art, and history as well as figuring out what they want out of life. A chunk of obsidian that Tyndall keeps on his desk becomes a window into the story of Cualli and Anci, two Aztec teens resisting conquistadors five centuries in the past, whose lives and growth mirror that of Sialia and James. Duff’s prose is highly lyric and fluid, zooming in and out of moments in a way reminiscent of modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf: “So here they all sit together in the sunny science room; a particular place that most of these kids have spent so much time in over the last four years. Though not necessarily in a together fashion. It is a didactic poem unraveled, out of time.” The short chapters are essentially vignettes that jump around through time, and the narrative that emerges—such as it is—is fragmentary and somewhat difficult to parse. While some of the writing is strong, the dialogue is often awkward and unnatural. Moreover, the author’s palpable interest in what he views as a corrupt school system feels incongruous with the book’s mercurial structure. The novel demonstrates clear ambition, but it is not very much fun to read.A choppy, experimental tale that follows some students and their teacher during a shift in their school’s curriculum.
Pub Date: March 15, 2019
Page Count: 276
Publisher: Time Tunnel Media
Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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