A charming, emotional story about family, fishing, and self-discovery.

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THE LEAVING YEAR

A teenage girl in 1967 explores her father’s veiled past in this debut historical novel.

Fifteen-year-old Ida Petrovich worships her dad, a gregarious fisherman who makes a daring crossing every year from their town of Annisport, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska. But this year, his boat never returns home; the Coast Guard inform Ida and her mother that he’s “presumed drowned,” and they struggle with accepting that “someone’s dead when there’s no evidence.” Ida overhears a cryptic conversation between her mother and grandmother about her father, in which her mom says “I can’t have a funeral when I’m not even sure he’s dead.” So Ida decides to uncover the truth for herself. After contacting a woman whom his father knew in Ketchikan, she decides to run away from home and work at a cannery there for the summer, in the hopes of finding out more about her dad. Gutting fish for hours on end proves “tiring and monotonous,” but over time, Ida becomes friends with a spirited Tlingit girl named Jody and grows close to Sam Taposok, a Filipino-American boy from her high school who faces daily discrimination. Through it all, Ida grapples with her father’s identity: his affinity for the “scoundrel” raven of Alaskan myth; his personal charisma, which allowed him to create communities beyond his family; and his love for home, coupled with his desire to leave it. McGaffin deftly maps how Ida’s view of her father changes from an idol to a flawed human, as well as the way that grief encroaches on every element of one’s life. Overall, though, her novel is more heartwarming than bleak as it chronicles how the Petrovich women haltingly find ways to survive and plan for an unforeseen future. The relationship between Ida and her mother provides the main dramatic tension; the father’s absence exposes how they used him as an emotional buffer and forces them to communicate their fears. These heart-to-hearts become slightly less believable as the tale winds to a close, and McGaffin ties everything up a bit too neatly. Nevertheless, the story maintains a certain rawness that sustains its impact.

A charming, emotional story about family, fishing, and self-discovery.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-943006-81-6

Page Count: 343

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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