An ambitious but discordant mix of genres.




From the Miss Susie series , Vol. 1

A chick-lit thriller that draws on old children’s songs for inspiration.

In the popular playground rhyme “Miss Susie,” each line seems as if it will finish with an offensive word before it abruptly and humorously changes. This ying and yang of foul and funny permeates Kreps’ debut novel about “a party girl” whose life is tangled up with concepts from similar kidcentric rhymes. Susie, a recent college grad, and Will Johnson (“6’2”, dark hair, sparkling blue eyes, enough definition showing through his t-shirt and jeans to let her know he was an active guy”) meet-cute at lunchtime in a Cleveland park when they both stop at a purse vendor’s table. On a date that night, Will’s behavior is often charming, but he also does things that raise red flags, such as ordering for Susie at a restaurant without asking her what she wants. She ignores further bad omens until she accompanies Will to a remote cabin, at which point this edgy chick-lit novel becomes truly disturbing. There, Will blindfolds Susie, handcuffs her, and takes off her clothes. He also feeds her an ice cream sundae that contains nuts, knowing that she’s deathly allergic to them. Susie manages to escape the cabin, but after the police arrive, Will twists his version of events to make it appear that Susie was accosting him. Ultimately, this novel is cleverly written, and it’s full of credible millennial dialogue. Throughout, Kreps supplies a footnoted playlist of children’s song titles to accompany the story, such as “Found a Peanut” as Will tries to find Susie after she escapes from the cabin; a reference to “The Princess Pat” leads to a description of Susie’s friend Pat seeing “red and gold and purple too” because of the drugs that she’s taken. The resulting confluence of chick-lit, thriller, and storybook elements, though, often feels disjointed and forced. A more linear storyline might have been more beneficial, as the plot sometimes wanders too far away from Susie in order to concentrate on secondary characters.

An ambitious but discordant mix of genres.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5059-0795-7

Page Count: 218

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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