An enjoyable gallop through a crucial period in the struggle for America’s independence.

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SEEDS OF REBELLION

THE FIRST FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR

In her historical fiction debut, Irvin (Let the Tail Go with the Hide, 2001) follows a young man as he comes of age in the 1700s during the French and Indian War.

In 1755, Josh Bedford doesn’t fit in. Thinking him unreliable, his father favors Josh’s older brother, Matt, who tortures Josh the way older brothers do. His mother coddles him, having lost Josh’s twin brother at birth, but also doesn’t defend him against his father’s disapproval. Josh longs for adventure, not the hard-toiling farming life he was born into; he often shirks his chores, which only exacerbates his problems at home. When his idol, Uncle Harry, a veteran of the famous battle at Fort Necessity, Pa., visits the family before returning to war, Josh takes the opportunity to run away. He hides in his uncle’s wagon, eventually arriving at Fort Cumberland in the company of the joined forces—the Redcoats, colonists and Native Americans—battling the French for control of America. To avoid discovery, Josh assumes a new name, Jed, and soon finds himself in service to not one but two famous historical figures: Daniel Boone and Capt. George Washington, who in turn show Josh the value of reliability and hard work, as well as the horrors of war. Whatever illusions of grandeur Josh may have harbored before witnessing battle firsthand are shattered when he sees his comrades fall. No longer a child, he returns home to the farm a changed young man. Irvin is well-versed in this period of history; in fact, a letter from her great-great-great-great-grandmother inspired one of the anecdotes about tense relations between the native population and the settlers. Her appreciation for detail shines in apt and engaging descriptions of the terrain, dress and speech, and though she writes for a YA audience, she never dumbs down the story or her language. Rather, Irvin uses her young protagonist’s inexperience with war as a vehicle to describe the hardships of living in 1755 without neglecting the equally important and timeless ideas of family, friendship and even love.

An enjoyable gallop through a crucial period in the struggle for America’s independence. 

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 109

Publisher: HeartChild, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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