A tale spins its answer to an age-old question into an inclusive, hilarious, and thought-provoking yarn.

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RAY VS THE MEANING OF LIFE

A teenager will inherit an RV park if he figures out the meaning of life in this YA novel.

In her will, Raymond Saintbury’s grandmother says he has one month to discover life’s meaning or she’ll give her RV park to his mother and uncle. A dazzling opening sequence describes the domino effect of Grandma’s death—all the ways she didn’t die before she actually did—and ends with her cryogenically frozen brain on display in the middle of her creation, Sunny Days RV Park. Dalen Anders, the celebrity self-help guru she hired to help Ray with his quest, offers him neither magic bullets nor magic beans. Ray’s transformation from a video game addict to an RV park owner and operator will take old-fashioned hard work: flipping burgers, cleaning out the pool, and scrubbing bathroom floors. Meanwhile, Ray’s mother and sister, who resent their treatment in the will, are hoping he fails. But Ray soon realizes that he is not the only person in the park with problems. Salminder, who runs the burger truck where Ray works, is battling cancer. Ray has been trying to win over Salminder’s daughter, Tina, for ages, but now he sees that helping her cope with her father’s illness is more important than trying to impress her with his gaming skills. Stewart (The Boy Who Swallows Flies, 2018, etc.) presents readers with a dynamite coming-of-age story. Backwoods without calling anyone backward, the author’s offbeat humor keeps the heavy subjects of death and poverty from becoming maudlin or bleak, as when Grandma’s body has to camp out in Ray’s trailer for a few days before the undertaker can get to her neck of the woods. Booby-trapped with guns, grizzly bears, and homemade fireworks, the cartoonish park setting skillfully gives wheels to a larger, more intriguing philosophical question. Salminder, a devout Sikh, asks Ray, “If it doesn’t matter who you are, how rich you are, where you are or what you’re doing, then why can’t you find your meaning of life here in this very RV park?”

A tale spins its answer to an age-old question into an inclusive, hilarious, and thought-provoking yarn.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-989133-00-2

Page Count: 275

Publisher: The Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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