An imperfect but admirably frank exploration of the challenges of integration in the late 1960s.



The white son of a minister active in the civil rights movement is forced to question the values he grew up with after he begins attending a mostly African-American high school in turbulent 1969 Chicago.

Shiflett (Hidden Place, 2004) tells the story of 14-year-old Simon Fleming, a white student who believes in integration—he participates in a boycott to end racist policies at the school—but whose skin color also makes him a frequent target of bullying and violence. After he tries to stop a group of black boys from beating another white student, he's rescued by a racist school cop, Officer Clark, who offers him protection in exchange for intel on the boycott. Other central characters include Clyde, a black classmate who tries to keep Simon out of trouble, and Simon’s father, Adam, whose own commitment to civil rights blinds him, at least at first, to the challenges his son faces. Most effectively (and affectingly) drawn among the supporting cast is Louis, a mercurial and often drug-addled classmate. Louis’ own minister father was killed while advocating for civil rights, and it is Louis’ complicated relationship with Simon that gives the novel’s most powerful moments their weight. Shiflett tends to let his scenes go long, and some plot elements feel overly familiar (Officer Clark’s act wears thin quickly, Simon’s requisite love interest isn’t given much to do). Still, Shiflett does a nice job illuminating a complex situation from multiple perspectives, and readers will find the book’s brisk final third—when various plotlines coalesce around rioting at the school—difficult to put down.

An imperfect but admirably frank exploration of the challenges of integration in the late 1960s.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-613-73560-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Academy Chicago

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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