A wildly imaginative, occasionally haunting fantasy anchored by strong, evolving female characters.


A girl tumbles into a fantastical world imperiled by toxic babies, a shape-shifting disease, suspicious magic, dubious technology, and greedy entrepreneurs.

In this frequently giggle-out-loud debut novel for teens and adults, 10-year-old “persnickety” ElizabethAnn Von Earp leaves behind her late-21st-century arid, insecticide- and hot tar–smelling town to follow her free-spirited Grandma—and a talking monkey wearing a polo shirt and a gold watch—down an animal burrow that proves to be a portal to the failing kingdom of Bumblegreen. There, magic has been banned; portal travel to other worlds is punishable by death; parents have developed an allergy to their babies so severe that infants must be fostered by genetically engineered monkeys; and a disease causes animals to turn into humans. With nods to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there is a wealth of entertaining details to unpack here, and Peru keeps the narrative flowing, alternately shifting focus from ElizabethAnn to Grandma (a fugitive from Bumblegreen justice); monkey geneticist Zade Fandey; the duchess, a scheming hoarder (“to own is to exist”); wistful trout-turned-human Hank; pregnant cook Tammy, abandoned and seeking black magic vengeance; her seducer, Fast Eddie; Earl, the watch-wearing monkey; ElizabethAnn’s dog, Jackson; and Bumblegreen’s 13-year-old Queen Dahlia, who would rather make cheese than deal with affairs of state. Among her outlandish adventures, ElizabethAnn weathers capture by butterflies with dark intentions, a mad dash over the rainforest canopy, and a 20-foot growth spurt during a mob-fueled trial to depose the queen, eventually becoming aware that she has a stake in Bumblegreen’s survival. Indeed, the author deepens the fantasy with unexpectedly thoughtful moments as ElizabethAnn and Dahlia gain believable strength and insight over the course of the book. ElizabethAnn’s experience at one point with “the elusive nature of momentary inner peace,” tinged with sadness, is particularly evocative. The impressively creative novel is divided into four parts (“Five Syllables Worth of Girl,” “The Cumbersome Outriggings of Queenliness,” “The Understated Elegance of Impossible Tasks,” and “The Hue and Cry of a Bloodletting Mob”), each one introduced by an exquisitely detailed, pen-and-ink image by debut illustrator Harris.

A wildly imaginative, occasionally haunting fantasy anchored by strong, evolving female characters.

Pub Date: May 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-51348-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Pangloss Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

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


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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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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