GO WEST YOUNG F*CKED-UP CHICK

Hollywood first novel, bravely bizarre and splintered as a mosaic, like pieces of Bruce Wagner and Nathanael West glued into a window sunlit with despair. Well, what does a 20-year-old heroine, who finds her suicidal, alcoholic mother hanging by her neck in the bathroom, have going for her? Not much. So Rebecca Roth gets into her shamefully beat-up yellow Toyota Corolla and drives cross-country to L.A., where she falls for super-charismatic black stud/French scholar Isaac, supports him with her $120-a-week job assisting celebrity reporter Darlene on Entertainment Tonight, visits sound-stages, helps locate celebs at parties, sits pretty with Austrian muscle-man Arnold (known here as Helmut Grosskopf), finds herself pregnant on the same day as she kicks out Isaac—and then must get an abortion. If that sounds like a storyline, it isn’t. The novel is pieced together in fragments, some only a third of a page long, giving us an airless, spirit-choking survey of stars, restaurants, and Rebecca’s largely lowlife existence: “I was exultant. Even breathed the thick poison, liked the way it filled my throat.” Reluctantly, she briefly tries therapy for abused children of alcoholic parents, not thinking herself abused, yet haunted by grungy, horrible dreams of her dead mother. Sleeping with kooks and a rocker from the Meat Puppets, fielding paranoid phone calls, encountering a middle-aged nut in the Laundromat who thinks he’s Gene Autry’s son and has a postcard of Gene to prove it, Rebecca fails to make much sense of the nightmarish Day-Glo landscape forever bopping the reader’s eyes, billboards, shaved palm trees, all in a technicarnal brilliance . An apocalyptic Wiley Coyote cartoon, or a lipstick kiss on a napkin kept in a bureau as a souvenir of hapless days when you were underpaid, little-known, and shivering.

Pub Date: April 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19889-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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