HEY, LIBERAL!

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 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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