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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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