Quirky and heartwarming, but thin.



An imaginary friend can be the best friend a boy’s got. But how can an imaginary friend help when the boy faces very real danger?

Max, 8, is on the autism spectrum. His loving parents struggle to make a secure life for him, although his father cannot quite face that his son is different. Max is able to cope with the close quarters of public school, the unpredictable people and the surprises of everyday life with the help of not only his parents, but also his teacher, Mrs. Gosk, and his imaginary friend, Budo. Told from Budo’s perspective, Dicks’ (Unexpectedly, Milo, 2010, etc.) latest novel explores the interior life of an imaginary friend, and imaginary friends have one overriding concern: What will happen to them when their imaginer forgets them? Budo is lucky that Max imagined him fully; a lot of the other friends he meets are missing ears, feet or even recognizable bodies. Max also imagined Budo as a bit older than himself, and this slightly more mature perspective comes in very handy when things go wrong for Max. Budo is a lifesaver. Literally. Budo helps Max find words, stops him from running out into traffic, and even helps him survive a terrifying encounter with the fifth-grade bully, Tommy Swinden, in a bathroom stall. But Budo is thwarted when Max begins to meet with Mrs. Patterson, an assistant teacher, in her car. Privately. During the school day. And Max won’t let Budo come along. Suddenly, Max disappears. This time, Budo will have to go out into the world alone, and since he cannot interact with any adults, he will have to rely on the imaginary friends of other children to save Max. Budo is charming, but Dick’s previous novels have treated eccentric characters with more success. The childlike perspective and simplistic syntax of this novel clash with its quite adult concerns of autism and child abduction.

Quirky and heartwarming, but thin.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-00621-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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