A lovable lead character and the hint of mystery make this trip down Memory Lane pleasurable enough to leave readers...

HERMIE BRAMBLEWEED AND THE ORIGIN OF DREAMER

In the first young-adult novel in a projected series, Lopez documents the life and loves of Hermie Brambleweed, a teenager dealing with typical high school drama—and some big secrets.

In this slightly dated coming-of-age story, Lopez introduces the world to Hermie. He’s an amazingly self-sufficient kid who proves to be a classic teenage boy in many respects: He hates his job, spends most of his time hanging out with friends, gets drunk on the sly and sneaks into his girlfriend Jane’s room as often as possible. But Hermie is keeping secrets. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and Hermie lives alone in a big house with a large trust fund administered by his grandparents. He is also guarding a cache of documents hidden in the basement by his meticulous father—files that could land a large chemical company in big trouble. Despite these secrets and the potential pitfalls of autonomy, Hermie flies under the radar by maintaining a job, studying hard, keeping house and living responsibly. As the story moves chronologically through Hermie’s sophomore and junior years, Lopez keeps the focus on Hermie’s passions (bowling and Jane) while entertaining readers with the antics of Hermie and his friends. There’s potential for great tension in Hermie’s story, but Lopez, alluding to the threat of discovery and danger, misses the opportunity to build suspense by focusing on Hermie’s daily routine rather than his tantalizing secrets. Although the cast of characters is strong, the dialogue feels forced at times, possibly the result of a confused timeline. Lopez doesn’t set the narrative in a specific year, but terms such as “cats” and “chicks” call to mind a bygone era, and he peppers the dialogue with references to cassette tapes and answering machines rather than iPods and cellphones. However, issues relating to sex and drugs remain relevant to modern teenagers, and Lopez addresses them in a tactful, realistic fashion.

A lovable lead character and the hint of mystery make this trip down Memory Lane pleasurable enough to leave readers anticipating the next chapter.

Pub Date: March 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466406520

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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