A sweet, twangy tale about a boy finding his future on the way to his past.

A SONG FOR THE ROAD

A debut YA road novel tells the story of an Oklahoma teen traveling across the West with his father’s guitar.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Danforth raids his single mother’s savings in order to buy back the left-handed acoustic guitar that his father—a successful musician—pawned on the way out of town six years ago. (“ ‘Creativity, Victory, Heart, and Discipline.’ Those four words had mattered to his father, enough to have them custom-stained into the guitar. The inscription was as valuable to Carter as the guitar itself, proof his father once had some good in him.”) But a tornado strikes Tulsa while Carter is in the pawn shop, and after a night hiding in the building’s basement, he walks home only to discover that his house has been torn in two by the storm. When he finally locates his mother, she’s lying in a hospital bed. She instructs him to buy himself a plane ticket to Reno to stay with his aunt—using the money he’s already spent on the guitar, of course—but instead Carter decides to find his father in California. If he can get him to sign the guitar and increase its value, he’ll be able to pay back his mother. On the road out west, he runs into all sorts of interesting characters, including a carpenter named Darren Bartles, who teach Carter about life and music—making the instrument that he’s lugging around less a memento of his father’s departure and more a tool to express the songs inside himself. Lacko’s prose is as full of grit and color as a classic country ballad: “The old man on the stage jutted his jaw in Darren’s direction. ‘We’ve seen him before,’ he said with a voice made of velvet and gravel. ‘He’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.’ ” Carter’s is a heartwarming tale that mostly avoids sounding sentimental, with stakes that are simultaneously kitchen table and larger-than-life. It reads like the origin story of some mythic troubadour, and one can’t help but start to feel romantic about Americana by the time Carter reaches the end of his road.

A sweet, twangy tale about a boy finding his future on the way to his past.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68463-002-8

Page Count: 243

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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