Somehow, Zappa has rendered familiar material with an amusing, fresh touch in this first salvo from what could be a...

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AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

Famous daughter, now first-novelist Zappa spins a story about obsession and heartbreak.

Narrator America Throne shouldn’t really have any problems. She’s a mentally young 30-year-old with an artist boyfriend and no pressing need to find a career, thanks to the monthly allowance from the estate of her late father, revered shock artist Boris Throne. But her boyfriend, Jasper, just faxed from San Francisco saying that they’ve grown apart and it’s over, her mother is an overbearing loon who spends her days flitting between different neuroses and New Age fads, and she doesn’t have any career besides some occasional voiceover work. After Jasper’s bombshell fax, America launches herself into a full-blown frenzy of binge-eating, self-hatred, and borderline-stalker behavior. Having invested most of her life in Jasper—as part of an ongoing attempt to get approval from men now that her inattentive father has died—there’s nothing to stop her slide into dementia. As much as the premise sounds like that of every other Bridget Jones rip-off, Zappa manages to give a new spin to these sometimes stale scenarios. Hewing fast to the write-what-you-know maxim, her portrait of America’s family is seems to be thinly veiled personal history. (One character even owns a lot of Frank Zappa CDs.) The roundelay of comic episodes that America finds herself in as she splashes about trying to make sense of her rudderless life are deftly intertwined with some painful, touching recollections of her dad’s. In one scene, she remembers a story he wrote about her: “The story gets made into a movie but I don’t get to play the part of myself because they have to shoot it in Canada to save money.”

Somehow, Zappa has rendered familiar material with an amusing, fresh touch in this first salvo from what could be a promising fiction career.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7432-1383-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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