Giving witness yet again to the self-created drama of adolescence: a serious bullet of a book.

THE TORN SKIRT

Teenage angst gets a surprisingly honest and effective rendering from a bright new voice.

Born with a raging fever and raised in a frightening, Manson-esque (without the murder) commune on the West Coast, Sara Shaw is a girl just trying to make it through her small-town high school. Her father’s a decent sort, benign and useless in a hippie sort of way, and at least he leaves her alone. Sara hangs with the burnout guys at school but doesn’t feel exactly fulfilled by their established rebellion, knowing that no matter how much Led Zeppelin they listen to or dope they smoke, none of them has any ambitions beyond their town. Sara becomes inexplicably obsessed with Justine, a furiously antisocial girl in the torn skirt of the title, and after randomly spotting and tailing her, gets caught up with a floating world of hookers and junkies who inhabit the town’s so-called “Red Zone.” At this vulnerable stage, her father decides to take off for the woods as part of his quest to lead a simpler life, and Sara’s slide into FTW (“Fuck the World”) behavior accelerates. School attendance quickly becomes a thing of the past, and before she knows it, she’s rooming with junkies and becoming fodder for cautionary tales. Launching into her narrative—“those twelve days when there was too much rain and I was burning and I found and lost Justine”—with seemingly no purpose, Godfrey offers few surprises in her story but constantly impresses with her precise eye and impassioned tone. This first-timer may not have opened new vistas of literature, but she brings this feverish girl fully to life on these rage-prone pages.

Giving witness yet again to the self-created drama of adolescence: a serious bullet of a book.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-009485-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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