DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction...

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BIG GIRL SMALL

DeWoskin (Repeat After Me, 2009, etc.) combines two reality-TV staples—teenage sex scandals and little people—in this story about a gifted high-school junior whose struggle to fit in is compounded by her height (3’9”).

Judy—short but a gifted writer with a huge singing voice—has just transferred from public high school to Ann Arbor’s elite Darcy Arts Academy. She’s not sure if the popular Darcy kids—beautiful, seemingly friendly Ginger in particular—are mean girls and mindless hunks or just adolescently neurotic, but Judy quickly makes two genuine if nerdy friends. She also develops an immediate crush on Jeff, who moved to town only a year ago and seems nicer than the other kids in his crowd. Soon after he talks to Judy flirtingly at a Halloween party, Ginger comes over to Judy’s house and warns her that Darcy boys can’t be trusted. But when Jeff offers Judy a ride home one day shortly before Thanksgiving, she can’t believe her luck. They have sex. She’s sure she is in love although he does not treat her like a girlfriend in public, so she doesn’t tell anyone. They continue to have occasional sex until the February night he asks her over and tells her about causing his younger sister’s death when he was drunk. They end up drinking with two of his friends. Judy wakes up at his house the next morning naked, with no memory of what happened. Soon enough she learns that a tape is circulating at the school showing her having sex with all three boys. Because of her height, she is considered “handicapped,” and everyone considers her a tragic victim, making her humiliation worse. She tells her story while hiding in a seedy motel until she is ready to return home to her loving family and friends.

DeWoskin creates a compelling voice for Judy and performs neat literary magic, confronting the stereotypes of teen fiction even as she uses them to pull the readers’ heartstrings.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-11257-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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