A dispiriting reminder that youth is wasted on the young.



First-novelist McCandless revisits—in loosely connected chapters—the cringe-making years of adolescent missteps and mistakes.

Narrator and Everygirl Emma Harris is about to enter sixth grade the summer her family move up from an apartment to a house in tony Grosse Pointe, Michigan. She’s soon best friends with neighbor Katrina, also a rising sixth grader. Katrina introduces her to the local landmarks—the department store, the ice-cream shop, and the drugstore—and helps her choose school clothes at the mall. The two are inseparable, but nothing lasts, especially in adolescence, and these tales are darker and more elegiac than the bouncy prose suggests. As Emma describes adjusting to middle school, being mortified by a popular boy, getting her first bra (embarrassingly ahead of the other girls) and her first period, her parents separate. Her father moves out; she and her mother have to find an apartment. Her friendship with Katrina, now more difficult to keep up, ruptures when a group of girls make insinuations about Katrina, and Emma, wanting to be popular, begins to ignore her. High school offers more challenges. Emma is attracted to Brian but insists on being friends because she fears losing those she loves. She loses her virginity to another boy. Emma and her friends go to parties where they drink too much and cross the river to nearby Canada with false IDs so they can drink in bars. A classmate commits suicide when rejected by Yale. The inevitable prom trauma—finding the dress and the date are equal chores—is followed by the almost anticlimactic graduation. At a reunion ten years later, Emma is drinking hard and Billy is still single. The drawings by comic-book illustrator Christine Norrie underline the numbingly familiar nature of these experiences; combined with McCandless’s shallow insights, they suggest the book would be more appropriately marketed as a YA title.

A dispiriting reminder that youth is wasted on the young.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-5612-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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

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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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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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