BEING WITH HENRY

Born from the short story `The Kindness of Strangers` in her collection Traveling on into the Light and Other Stories (1994) Brooks builds a delicately tuned novel in three parts that pays homage to Capote in its treatment of characters, but stands strongly on its own. Good-looking Laker is an introspective teenager who's grown up with his mostly-single mom Audrey. Her new marriage and pregnancy drives a wedge into their close relationship, and Laker starts to stay away from home, drinking, punishing himself and his mom, until in a rage he physically attacks his stepfather, and then catches a bus out of town. Act two: enter Henry, an octogenarian still grieving for his wife, who takes in Laker mostly to spite his own daughter. Laker does some work for Henry in exchange for room and board, but by the time the two can both admit they're using each other, they've become attached. In the final section, Henry and Laker take a trip together that returns each to his own past, and is intended to set them each on his own way. Laker's voice is moody, melancholy, and intelligent. He reads plays voraciously—especially, of course, A Streetcar Named Desire, and his inner landscape is portrayed metaphorically in the outer one that Brooks details. She seems to employ an entirely different vocabulary than the rest of us, as her completely ordinary turns of phrase swell with the extraordinary. She has a keen eye for people, as Capote did, and every minor character comes alive instantly and fully. Laker's story is at once pedestrian and miraculous. Brooks deals with universal adolescent themes of home, self, and romance with a fresh hand, creating a memorable story that begs repeating. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7894-2588-2

Page Count: 215

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes

LEGEND

From the Legend series , Vol. 1

A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles.

Fifteen-year-olds June and Day live completely different lives in the glorious Republic. June is rich and brilliant, the only candidate ever to get a perfect score in the Trials, and is destined for a glowing career in the military. She looks forward to the day when she can join up and fight the Republic’s treacherous enemies east of the Dakotas. Day, on the other hand, is an anonymous street rat, a slum child who failed his own Trial. He's also the Republic's most wanted criminal, prone to stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. When tragedies strike both their families, the two brilliant teens are thrown into direct opposition. In alternating first-person narratives, Day and June experience coming-of-age adventures in the midst of spying, theft and daredevil combat. Their voices are distinct and richly drawn, from Day’s self-deprecating affection for others to June's Holmesian attention to detail. All the flavor of a post-apocalyptic setting—plagues, class warfare, maniacal soldiers—escalates to greater complexity while leaving space for further worldbuilding in the sequel.

This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes . (Science fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25675-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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