by Paula R. Hilton ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 18, 2016
A remarkable, deeply nuanced tale about growing up, even for readers who are already adults.
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A debut coming-of-age novel, set on the Jersey Shore, follows a teenager who falls in love with a thief.
High-achieving Vivian is bemused rather than frightened when a fellow teen holds up the Dunkin’ Donuts where she works. A few days later, the handsome lad shows up on his motorcycle and they have their first date. Despite notable differences in their ambition levels (Vivian dreams of attending Princeton; Jake plans his next robbery, the sites chosen for the lack of nutrition they promote rather than material gain), the two share a sense of loss. Vivian’s beloved father died recently, and she and her Southern belle mother, Ivy, are clashing for the first time as they navigate their new reality. Jake’s alcoholic mother, Wendy, deserted him and his father, Sonny, to become a cocktail waitress in Atlantic City. Jake’s formidable anger and sense of abandonment—intensified by his diabetes—are palpable. Vivian is drawn to his vulnerability, but Ivy sees him merely as bad news. Vivian’s academic and musical perfection (she plays the clarinet) falter as she spends time with Jake, intensifying the disapproval of Vivian’s best friend, Hailey, and Ivy. Then a bad decision threatens Vivian’s future and her relationship with Jake. Hilton’s secondary players—Sonny, Wendy, Hailey, and Ivy—are just as complex and developed as the main characters. At one point, Sonny turns philosophical: “Wendy had once told him that a group of seagulls was called a flurry, and while Sonny wasn’t normally a person fascinated by words, this was an image he grew to appreciate. A flurry of snow that made it impossible to fly…A flurry of events that made it difficult to put one foot in front of the other.” The tale’s setting, primarily the Jersey Shore town of Belmar, is virtually a character itself, informing and infusing the protagonists in diverse ways. Vivian has no desire to return to her parents’ hometown of New Orleans, but Jersey-raised Hailey finds her spiritual base in the Deep South. Vivian and Jake’s love story may provide the foundation for this book, but it is more than a teen romance. While it is a coming-of-age story for the three teenagers, the parents also learn lessons about love and loss. Eloquently written, the novel transcends ordinary genres and is a work of literary fiction.A remarkable, deeply nuanced tale about growing up, even for readers who are already adults.
Pub Date: March 18, 2016
Page Count: 276
Review Posted Online: June 10, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016
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by Yalda Alexandra Saii ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013
A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.
A bossy middle school fashionista feels threatened by the new girl in Saii’s YA novel.
Vanessa Pocker and her friends Chelsea, Adrienne and Katie are the richest of the rich in their Santa Monica, Calif., middle school, and they comprise the Sassy Divas. Vanessa leads the pack and dictates whom the divas are allowed to talk to, what they’re allowed to wear and how they conduct themselves in public. Vanessa is so domineering that it’s a miracle she has any friends at all. Had Saii endowed her with an ounce of kindness, the loyalty of her minions might be more understandable. Vanessa’s militant nature finally alienates Katie, the diva who is too much of a bookworm, according to Vanessa. Katie befriends Flo, who’s on the Sassy Diva “do not speak to” list (Flo had once refused to hold Vanessa’s purse). Excommunicated from the Sassy Divas, Katie befriends the new girl at the school, Quinn. This infuriates Vanessa, and she declares war. A power play ensues among the adversarial lip-glossed sets, with Vanessa, Chelsea and Adrienne on one side and Katie, Quinn and Flo on the other. Vanessa turns to guy friend Ryan, who offers the only voice of reason when he admonishes her for obsessing over trivialities, such as revenge and makeovers, when there are starving children in the world. He seems to be nothing more than Vanessa’s sounding board, and it’s unclear what he gets out of the relationship. At least Vanessa buys clothes and makeup for her divas, on occasion. Mired in trendy youngster lingo, Saii’s tale accurately depicts girls’ power plays and the alienation that can result from simply owning jeans without a designer label. Fashion, gossip, popularity and shopping define these characters, and any threat of competition is cause for war. Vanessa’s parents rarely make appearances, except for a poignant scene when Vanessa’s mother engages her daughter in a heart-to-heart about her selfish behavior. It’s a relief to finally hear the mother speak and lead the story to an ending marked with humor and depth. Saii’s literary chops are inconsistently displayed and improve toward the conclusion. Although the average middle school girl may not wear Jimmy Choos or form private elitist groups, young readers might find themselves curious about these affluent trendsetters. At least Vanessa learns her lesson, which raises the novel a notch above teenybopper fluff.A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.
Pub Date: March 1, 2013
Page Count: 155
Publisher: Lekha Publishers
Review Posted Online: March 4, 2013
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by Michael Somers ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2012
An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.
Somers’ debut young-adult novel follows a teenage boy from sickness to tenuous health as he battles an eating disorder and the problems that helped create it.
Nathan is a typical teen with typical problems, including an unhappy family life and romantic disappointment, but he’s got an unhealthy “solution” for dealing with them: starving and purging himself. His descent into bulimia and anorexia occurs quite quickly; it starts with Nathan taking short bike rides to get away from his domineering father and alcoholic mother, and soon he’s inducing vomiting; not long afterward, he’s admitted to an eating-disorder program, at which point the book seems to find its center. Nathan is the only boy in his unit, a fact that his status-obsessed parents find it hard to understand; in fact, as the book makes clear, boys make up 10 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders. Somers’ novel never falls into “after-school special” territory, but it has a clear message. Nathan is depicted as a smart, cynical teenager, but his trials are sometimes more informative than heart-wrenching. The short chapters, complete with bad teenage poetry, keep the story moving, and Nathan’s dad, mom and nurse all get at least one chance to tell their side of the story. But although these multiple points of view are interesting, they may distract readers from Nathan’s personal trials. Also, the novel sometimes gets bogged down in eating-disorder program protocol; for example, a plan to interrupt Nathan’s family therapy takes two pages of emails, rather than a line or two of dialogue.An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2012
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Rundy Hill Press LLC
Review Posted Online: April 30, 2013
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