A brisk, nuanced story of supernatural sightings and adolescent tribulations.


In Ziemer’s debut YA tale, a teenager believes he’s seen a ghost from his town’s folklore.

Brian Krueger’s life is a struggle after the death of his paternal grandfather. The teen’s dad responds by drinking heavily, prompting his unemployment. So Brian’s mom finds a job, which takes the family from Chicago to just outside Winston, Illinois. Their new neighbors, the Vincenzis, include teenage “Pete the Pyro,” a bully who loves building huge bonfires but clearly doesn’t like Brian. Luckily, Brian has a friend in Sharon Rice. They have English class together at Winston North and team up on a research paper. Their topic is the reputed ghost of Jamie McVay, a local legend. Brian’s interest is personal: One night, he sensed the presence of a speeding train in the same spot, he later learns, of a fatal train accident decades ago. He also saw a red signal light evidently belonging to McVay, the conductor reputedly on the doomed train. Research dredges up secrets surrounding both the wreck and McVay himself. Brian, meanwhile, already has his share of problems: his alcoholic father, constant bullying from Pete and his cronies, and Sharon’s new social status, which may sever their friendship. It all culminates in a Halloween night of shocks and revelations. Despite supernatural elements, Ziemer’s novel is consistently subtle. For example, the red signal light typically indicates McVay’s presence, in lieu of a more overt ghostly image. Likewise understated is Brian and Sharon’s relationship. While potential romance between the teens is apparent, their steadily developing friendship deepens organically, and their mutual attraction is obvious, though neither explicitly addressing it. There’s minimal suspense with regard to the restless spirit of McVay. The scariest parts are generally more relatable, involving such things as Brian’s inebriated dad behind the wheel (with Brian in the passenger seat) and Pete’s rather unnerving fondness for flames. The author’s tight prose helps the story retain a swift pace all the way to a climax that, even if readers see it coming, is wholly gratifying.

A brisk, nuanced story of supernatural sightings and adolescent tribulations. 

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68433-215-1

Page Count: 237

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?