Graphic and guileless, as well as underdeveloped, though admittedly intriguing if only because of the author’s youth.

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A British debut novel, penned by a (then) 16-year-old author, offers the intense immediacy of teenage youth—though often without the forward momentum and richness of texture of a fully accomplished work.

The unnamed narrator is a 14-year-old girl who describes, in detail at times biting and at others long-winded, the travails of teenage life in a coastal English town. A bit awkward when she begins school, she learns how to fit in with the cool kids by letting the boys stick their hands up her skirt during break. Soon she has a clique of friends and a mean-spirited, acne-covered boyfriend named Robin, whom she meets for lunch to smoke pot and roll around on the grass with. Slowly her real psyche is revealed when Robin begins to hit her: she likes it, or, more accurately, craves the extreme sensation to feel alive. So begins the narrator’s masochism. When Robin falls in love with her, she pushes away his gentleness and begins dating 31-year-old Oliver. More interesting, though, than her romantic relationships are her familial ones—with her loving if volatile father and silent mother, left-wingers who have slipped into a life of disillusionment and endless arguing. Her parents’ fighting, the increasingly violent relationship with Oliver, and her gradual withdrawal from school life set the stage for self-mutilation as she cuts herself repeatedly—another desperate act for some kind of cold comfort. While the speaker provides a bleak, honest assessment of youthful angst, too much, given all that happens, is left unsaid or unexplained: her parents’ acceptance of a grown man sleeping with their daughter (in their house); her largely undisclosed relationships with friends; and, most importantly, the lack of self-reflection on the teller’s part.

Graphic and guileless, as well as underdeveloped, though admittedly intriguing if only because of the author’s youth.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8021-3700-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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