Intelligent and fun, this fast-paced tale delivers kaleidoscopic settings and an adventurous love story.

Wilder

From the The Renegades series

Yarros (Ignite: Legacy, 2016, etc.) offers a shipboard romance between an extreme sports athlete and his ambitious tutor.

Incredibly wealthy Paxton “Pax” Wilder and three of his friends are the original Renegades, performing extreme sports stunts for their YouTube channel and dominating the X Games while finishing their college educations. Eleanor “Leah” Baxter is a senior at Dartmouth with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in international relations and planning for graduate school. When Leah is assigned as Pax’s tutor for a yearlong educational program onboard the ship Athena, she plans to use a businesslike approach. After all, her scholarship eligibility is tied to his grades as part of her contract, and continued funding for the documentary the Renegades are filming also relies on Pax’s academic success. When Pax pushes her into zip-lining at the ship’s launch party, her anger at his arrogance creates some distance. But soon, the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore. While negotiating the hazards of their new romance, they also must keep up with their studies, work on new stunts, provide documentary footage, and look for a traitor among Pax’s innermost circle. Unexplained accidents and rigged gear make this not only a betrayal of trust, but also a safety risk. There are other acts of treachery among the group members. And eventually, Pax will have to face the devastating consequences when Leah learns his secret. Pacing is swift and sure, foreshadowing is light and effective, and believable plot twists abound; the story races to its explosive, emotionally satisfying conclusion. Liberal but judicious use of profanity and love of wordplay (“I’m sure as hell not your beck-and-call girl. Especially not the call-girl part,” for example) enliven the narrative. And the chemistry between Leah and Pax absolutely sizzles. The tale, told in first person by each of them in alternating chapters, allows a deeper look at the characters’ fears, feelings, and ghosts. In Yarros’ skilled hands, these shifting viewpoints don’t feel contrived but like an essential device for enriching the plot. Even secondary characters are well-developed and their motivations explained. The exotic settings (Istanbul, Madagascar, etc.) and extreme sports stunts (parasailing, BASE jumping, etc.) never overwhelm the story; caught up in the events, readers enjoy an emotionally nuanced thrill ride. This escapist treat remains a page-turner until the end.

Intelligent and fun, this fast-paced tale delivers kaleidoscopic settings and an adventurous love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68281-268-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Embrace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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