A mildly uplifting tale full of pleasant imagery, but could have packed more punch.

THE TOWN THAT NEVER STARED

O’Leary’s debut is a young adult novel about a small town family dealing with the effects of war and tragedy.

Younger brother Cody is the star quarterback and his older brother Boomer is the offensive lineman charged with protecting Cody on the field. Their personalities reflect their on-field duties; Cody is thoughtful and puts pressure on himself while Boomer likes to hit things, not out of anger but for the thrill of contact. The reader can easily picture the pair driving around O’Leary’s old-fashioned Grand Rapids, Ohio, as autumn leaves scuttle across the sidewalk. The author has created likable characters and drawn an engaging portrait of an idyllic American town. The scenery is beautiful, and O’Leary excels at pulling the reader into the setting. The book comes to life in simple scenes such as Cody and his girlfriend Kim playing flashlight tag with their teenage friends in a corn maze. When Boomer makes a life-altering decision to serve with the military in Iraq after his senior year in high school, it’s a natural progression for his character. Indeed, every character fits neatly into the story and plays a part in the larger narrative. O’Leary’s tale is efficient in that way, but this can also make things feel perfunctory; things fall into place a bit too easily, and there are places where the author avoids delving into the conflict in a moment. When Kim visits Boomer in the hospital, the chapter ends just as the two begin a meaningful, telling interaction. A similar situation occurs shortly thereafter when Kim wants to take Boomer’s picture, and he balks and later when Cody tells his brother’s story at a school assembly. O’Leary sets up great moments but stops short of playing them out in the text. These dramatic moments are where the meat of the story is, but the narrative just fills in the action later on. This is part of O’Leary’s approach to a difficult subject, and it helps avoid turning the book into a polemic. But this also robs the narrative of some of its dramatic impact.

A mildly uplifting tale full of pleasant imagery, but could have packed more punch.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-0975321614

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Swan Creek

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2011

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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