by Ron DeBoer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 6, 2017
A charming, if uneven, coming-of-age tale.
A 12-year-old girl experiences a season of change and hope during the winter of 1962 in this middle-grade novel.
Kate Dunn, the Irish-American daughter of a police officer, lives in a comfortable apartment in Manhattan’s Washington Heights with her parents, older brother Rory, and younger brother Danny and attends the local Catholic school. Her family expects that she will eventually become a nurse or a flight attendant, but the highly intelligent Kate refuses to accept limitations on her ambitions. She regularly wins awards at her school for academic excellence, and she received a full scholarship to the Sacred Heart of Mary Academy. When she’s not spending time with her best friend, Mary Garvey, she pores over a well-worn copy of Black’s Law Dictionary. As the Christmas season approaches, she looks forward to preparing for high school; however, the winter of 1962 ends up being anything but typical for Kate. The region endures unusually frigid weather, dubbed “The Freeze” by local residents. As she waits for the snow predicted by her eccentric neighbor Miss H. Wellington Grimes, her parents cope with problems of their own: Her father faces pressures in his new assignment in the narcotics squad while also dealing with guilt over his actions during World War II, and her mother is secretly saving money. As Christmas approaches, Kate learns a secret that threatens to alter her plans for the future. DeBoer’s debut is a sensitively crafted portrait of a young girl growing up at a pivotal time for women in America. Kate is a dynamic protagonist who has big plans for her future and refuses to let anyone tell her what she can achieve, and the tension between her ambitions and society’s expectations informs her relationships with her father, who tells her that “Girls become nurses,” and Mary, who plans to forgo college in favor of secretarial school. The Washington Heights setting is a significant part of the narrative, and the author brings it to life with vivid descriptions of the community and nuanced supporting characters. Most of the action takes place in Kate’s apartment building or in the streets of the surrounding neighborhood. The reader’s guide to life in the building is Flann McFarland, its superintendent, who regularly regales the children with fantastic stories of a kingdom in Ireland called “Shiloh.” Flann’s own tale of heartbreak is a poignant one. Another memorable resident is the aforementioned Miss Grimes, a woman who spent a colorful childhood in a traveling circus. That said, the novel would have benefited from sharper editing. At times, the prose is lyrical, particularly during a speech from Miss Grimes, in which she tells the protagonist, “Your life will at times, feel very much like a circus, Kate. The acts will come and go.” However, there are occasional misspellings of notable real-life people and places.A charming, if uneven, coming-of-age tale.
Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2017
Page Count: 202
Review Posted Online: March 8, 2018
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
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
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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