Two tales with some good moments hampered by awkward, skimpy storytelling.



In this YA novella and short story, two different young women must figure out their romantic attachments.

In the title novella, 19-year-old Camille “Cami” Alexander is five days away from an important conservatory audition in New York City, where she intends to play her 1713 Stradivarius violin. She’s nervous, and she’s also worried about her boyfriend, Jackson, who’s just been arrested and jailed for stealing computers. Jim, her 27-year-old music teacher, has feelings for her and thinks that she should forget about Jackson. After Jackson gets out on bail, he makes aggressive demands, and Cami breaks up with him. When her Strad goes missing, she suspects her ex but has no alternative but to audition with a borrowed violin. In the short story “Redemption,” Kara, 21, hopes for a second chance with Martin, her 24-year-old former boyfriend. A year ago, he persuaded her to have sex with him even though they both valued virginity highly; when she became pregnant, he left her, but she loves him, nonetheless. They meet up and go for a drive, but Martin is distant and even speaks in tongues when she tries to talk to him. “He’s so holy and beautiful,” Kara thinks, as she prepares to divulge a big secret. Heidelberg (All the Pretty Roses, 2017, etc.) offers two swiftly moving narratives. However, they’re both rather sketchily detailed, with obvious moments of exposition filling in gaps. For instance, Jim explains to Camille how his parents came to be her guardians after her own parents’ deaths—something that she’d surely already know. It would have been helpful to have more explanation at other points, though, such as why Camille ever considered Jackson to be a good boyfriend. Both the novella and story end on notes of easy wish fulfillment that make them less powerful. Heidelberg sometimes offers some engaging reflections, however, as when biracial Cami wonders if Jim considers himself a better prospect for her because he’s white; Jackson is mixed-race, but Cami notes that, in the eyes of the Mississippi community, “she was black, and so was Jackson.”

Two tales with some good moments hampered by awkward, skimpy storytelling.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5450-1540-7

Page Count: 72

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2017

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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