Equally appealing back story and characters make a sequel to this novel about an animal spirit something to look forward to.


The Hunted Tribe


A teen descendant of a tribe cursed by an ancient creature may be the one who can save his bloodline in this horror tale.

When Sean Wolf’s parents send him to stay with Grandma Elizabeth in the San Juan Islands, it’s certainly not a vacation. They’ve effectively banned him from their home, believing Sean deliberately set a fire that injured his father, Henry. Elizabeth thinks Sean may have done it subconsciously, protecting his family with magic. Mom Mary saw the raven mark in the fire, the calling card of the Grishla, an animal spirit that the Dwanake tribe attempted to enslave centuries ago. Taking the form of a Velociraptor-esque Deinonychus, the Grishla targets tribe scions in retaliation. But there’s good news: a second mark (the number 13) means Sean broke the Grishla’s spell, convincing Elizabeth he’s the Ultra-Witch, powerful enough to fight the creature. Elizabeth gradually relays this to her grandson so she can begin training him to perfect his witchcraft. But she keeps mum about the “hideous experiments” on children to create an Ultra-Witch—which remain mysterious even to readers. Sean, meanwhile, makes a few friends: Jimmy Cooper, Tom Wright, and Bear. A night of camping in the woods sounds like fun, but it’s unfortunately a prime spot for the Grishla to attack. Gray (New England: Weird, 2016, etc.) delivers suspense throughout: Sean dreams of Civil War ancestor Srinam Srinivasan (and his wife and child) being pursued by the monster, while recurrent red eyes indicate its proximity to various people. But the exposition also offers engaging character development. Sean, for example, regrets tormenting Mary, buying books on black magic just to agitate her. The teens’ dynamic is likewise solid, with churchgoing Jimmy struggling to forgive allegedly reformed bully Tom, responsible for Jimmy’s hellish treatment in school. Gray spends a little too much time on Elizabeth’s vegan cooking, with Sean excessively gushing over portobello mushroom French dip sandwiches. But there’s plenty of meat—vegan or not—to the plot, delving into the tribe’s history as well as Mary’s; her strong Christian beliefs may stem from escaping black magic in her own lineage. The ending drops a nice twist and setup for Book 2.

Equally appealing back story and characters make a sequel to this novel about an animal spirit something to look forward to.

Pub Date: March 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5305-0808-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2016

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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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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