An enjoyable, humorous debut with great appeal to younger readers and those whose identity-formation has hinged on their...

A TIME BEFORE ME

One gay man's down-home coming-of-age story.

Debut novelist Perronne presents a believable and engaging cast of characters in this quiet tale of self-realization. Mason Hamilton, the lone son of a lower-class southern family, falls for his best friend, Billy, in a town whose biggest industry is a peanut-processing plant. Though little in the plot distinguishes it from other coming-out stories–teen misfit flees the conservative confines of home and town for the more liberal embrace of the big city, where he finds the courage to explore his identity–the tale’s dual setting in rural Mississippi and pre-Katrina New Orleans contributes to its unique charm. When Billy, who also turns out to be gay, hops on a New York City–bound bus the night of their high-school graduation, Mason is completely alienated from his surroundings–until a bottle-blond stranger rescues him from an interminable summer of ice-cream scooping at Spence’s 32 Flavors by introducing him to the local gay “club” situated in a barn. Teenaged Mason’s exposure to such like-minded company inspires him to pay a momentous visit to his sympathetic Aunt Savannah, who just so happens to own a New Orleans drag club. This contrast of worlds provides the answer to Mason’s silent wishes: “The majority of people were so terrified of sexuality that in my eighth-grade health class the chapter in our textbook containing the words penis and vagina had been ripped out. Here on Bourbon Street sexual images were thrown in your face, and they made it impossible for you to ignore them.” Perronne’s free-flowing passages and well-tempered sarcasm make the novel a pleasant one-sitting read, and the cliffhanger ending, as Mason chases after his first real love, will leave readers pining for more.

An enjoyable, humorous debut with great appeal to younger readers and those whose identity-formation has hinged on their sexuality.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2006

ISBN: 1-58348-463-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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