A sharp contemporary satire that lovingly confronts the raucous realities of Hollywood, the internet, and the media.

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American Asshole

A bored office worker moves to Los Angeles and tries to make it big with a bizarre crowdfunding campaign in Adam’s debut novel.

River Conway is a 29-year-old aspiring singer and actor whose dreams have been sidelined. After he and his girlfriend, Alana, graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, they moved to Arizona to care for her ailing father. Seven long years later, they’re still there; River is working a dead-end job and worries that it’s too late for him to break into the entertainment industry. Alana donates $10,000 to her celebrity crush’s crowdfunding campaign, and she and River are invited to his party in LA. There, River is inspired to launch a campaign of his own. Although his mother always told him that he was born for greatness (“Why else would an honest, salt of the earth, lower middle class couple from Who Cares, Ohio, name their son River?”), he decides to start “Save an A$$hole,” asking donors to help him leave behind a lifestyle that they wouldn’t want to live themselves. Soon, River has second thoughts and deletes the campaign, but then Alana surprisingly offers to move to LA with him. In Hollywood, her rapid-fire networking lands her a role on a sitcom, and River resorts to relaunching his crowdfund concept. He’s soon contacted by a TV comedy channel that wants to film the last days of the campaign as a telethon. River agrees, and the resulting media sensation and scathing headlines (“Douchebag Becomes Millionaire For No Reason, Nation Weeps”) lead to an exploitative reality show that takes him down an uncertain path. Adam has written a wickedly funny, timely satire, full of piercing jabs at Hollywood and crystal-clear characterizations of brain-dead, disingenuous LA denizens. The fact that River is Tisch-trained but still becomes the chief flake of the moment is amusing, and it shows the push-and-pull relationship that members of River’s generation have with industries that simultaneously seduce and repulse them. The scenarios are wild, but the novel does well to wonder if people obsessed with popular culture can survive in LA without descending into tragicomedy. The ending is a bit neat, but Adam’s tight prose and perfect timing make the story as a whole both playful and gratifying.

A sharp contemporary satire that lovingly confronts the raucous realities of Hollywood, the internet, and the media.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-64606-946-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Post-Entropy

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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