Loses its way after a promisingly edgy start.

READ REVIEW

BLUE BOY

Has the god Krishna returned? Only in the fantasies of a troubled Indian-American kid, explored at length in this tragicomedy of alienation by debut novelist Satyal.

First the lipstick, then the eyeliner: Kiran is raiding his mother’s cosmetics again. The 12-year-old only child finds his life divided between his almost all-white school in a Cincinnati suburb and his parents’ all-Indian world of Sunday school after Hindu temple and potluck parties every Saturday night at a rotating series of houses owned by affluent immigrants just like them. Afflicted with severe migraines and blackouts, Kiran finds solace in makeup sessions, ballet classes and playing with dolls. For his school’s upcoming talent show, he decides to devise a ballet based on Krishna, whose icon rests by his mother’s bed. Then an idea takes hold: Might he be the tenth, hitherto withheld incarnation of the god? Blue-skinned Krishna played the flute, gorged on butter and was a famous lover; Kiran buys a recorder, increases his butter consumption and notices blue tints to his skin. Being a lover is the hard part, for our hero doesn’t yet understand sex, though his eventual orientation is clear. Kiran studies Penthouse and Playboy. He happens on some teens having wild group sex in the park. He spies on a boy and girl making out at a house party. This spectacle gives rise to a most un-Krishna-like jealousy, and he tells on them. A snitch, a crybaby and at one point an arsonist, Kiran is not easy to love, and his voice veers erratically between that of a child and an adult. The author never manages to come up with much of a plot or develop credible supporting characters, leaving readers stuck inside Kiran’s head as his illusions become ever more grandiose, until he finally declares himself “just as great, just as godly, just as genius as Krishna.” The climactic talent show fails to provide resolution.

Loses its way after a promisingly edgy start.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7582-3136-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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