A powerful depiction of the currency of intolerance and addiction in one small town.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

In 1997, a Minnesota teenager searches for his mother amid the temptation of sex and drugs.

Strom’s debut novel follows Shane Stephenson, who's trying to find his mother following the sudden death of his father. Shane’s mother abandoned them a long time ago, leaving her son a $100 bill and sending him a Christmas card with a return address in Holm, Minnesota. Shane has long hair and an androgynous appearance, and he clearly doesn’t fit into the small town of Holm, where he's gone looking for his mother. The people there vilify homosexuality, and femininity is not welcome in anyone other than a woman. He quickly meets a group of teenagers that includes Jenny, J, Mary, Sven, and Russell. As it goes with teenagers, the members of the group engage in a series of romances. Sven stands out as the town bully, cruelly attacking Shane both verbally and physically every time he sees him, calling him “faggot” whenever he can, and organizing a parade with his friends dressed in traditional Klan attire holding Confederate flags and screaming for freedom and justice. Although Shane came to Holm with the specific goal of finding his mother, who turns out to have left just over a year ago, he quickly falls prey to the activities of bored teenagers in small towns: He starts up a drunken relationship with Russell, shoots up speed with J as often as he can, and deepens his relationship with Jenny between fixes. Strom paints a portrait of small-town life that is sure to make readers shiver. He sets up a narrative space in which a young boy is looking for his mother and quickly swerves, giving us death, alcohol, addiction, drugs, sex, bigotry, all wrapped up in the neat package that makes up Holm. Shane is heartbreaking, and readers will have a hard time parting with him after the book is over.

A powerful depiction of the currency of intolerance and addiction in one small town.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9029-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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