A lyrical, compelling coming-of-age story with magical elements.

The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

A water-loving girl struggles to find her place on land in this novel.

Growing up in Grand Haven, Michigan, by the shores of the titular lake, Elise Faulkner is shy and withdrawn, much to the chagrin of her ex–beauty queen mother. Despite the former Miss Coast Guard’s efforts to help Elise make local friends, she prefers to stay home reading or writing to one of her international pen pals, like Fabrice Nwanko, the Ghanian schoolgirl who reveals her uncle’s encounter with a mermaid. Elise is fascinated by mermaids because of her scandalous great-grandmother Margaret Stieg, a wreck diver who claimed her life was saved by one when her oxygen was cut off during an underwater mission to retrieve a sunken diamond ring. Elise’s quiet, dreamy life changes when her mother introduces her to world-traveling, cigarette-smoking Chiara. As the two girls become fast friends, bonding over vintage fashion and playing hooky at the beach, Elise discovers she’s inherited some of Margaret’s daring after all—especially after meeting Miguel Ballesteros, a Roma carnival worker and flamenco guitarist who tells her, “I’m your destiny.” Will their romance lure her away from the lake—and the people—she loves? And will the darkness of Miguel’s future sweep Elise under with it? While Elise remains a fairly passive character throughout the narrative, Kamata (The Beautiful One Has Come, 2015, etc.) pulls off the difficult trick of writing a book that’s thoughtful and slow-paced without overexplaining or making the story plodding. Her writing is clear and confident, with an eye for vivid details—“dormer windows like lidded eyes” or “one round little pea...like a jewel.” She unfortunately uses the term “Gypsy” in place of “Roma” more than once, and Miguel’s air of mystery may read as stereotypical. But readers carried along by Elise’s tale will find themselves wanting more.

A lyrical, compelling coming-of-age story with magical elements.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942545-59-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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