Next book

POPCO

Thought-provoking fiction for the Digital Age.

The author of the agreeable but aimless Going Out (2004) finds a sense of direction in this ambitious novel, which quietly but scathingly critiques consumerist society.

Narrator Alice Butler, 29, invents new products for PopCo, a global toy company that sells “the things kids want”—or rather, creates those wants through such sinister marketing tactics as fake websites with fake kids “discovering” various PopCo products. Alice is mildly alienated by this as she heads to the company’s annual brainstorming session at its luxurious “Thought Camp” in Devon. But over the course of her stay, childhood memories come flooding back to reveal how far she’s strayed from the ideals of the grandparents who raised her after her mother died and her father vanished. Both were ace mathematicians and cryptographers: Her grandmother worked at Bletchley Park on cracking the Enigma code; her grandfather deciphered a manuscript that led to buried treasure, but refused to make use of it because the treasure lay in a wildlife preserve. He left the secret to Alice, who at “Thought Camp” finds herself increasingly repulsed by the shallow values of most of her fellow employees, who think that “no dress code, no rules and no set working hours” means they’re free, when in fact they’re as trapped as the workers who actually produce Popco’s stuff in dangerous Third World factories. Thomas passes along a lot of surprisingly interesting information about math and cryptography, plus some highly creepy material on toy marketing, as she connects her heroine with fellow rebels and suggests an alternative to mindlessly feeding the corporate desire machine. The conclusion may not be terribly plausible, but it provides a pleasing happy ending for morose but oddly lovable Alice—and a form of revolt that suits her wised-up, yet not entirely cynical, generation. Thomas has always been a sharp observer and deft creator of character; it’s a pleasure to see those skills employed in the context of a strong plot and stronger point of view.

Thought-provoking fiction for the Digital Age.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-603137-X

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

Categories:

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • National Book Award Finalist

Next book

A LITTLE LIFE

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 34


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner


  • 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

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Categories:
Next book

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Categories:
Close Quickview