An intriguing exploration of the teenage psyche, but its protagonist is difficult to like.

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THE GOOD LIFE

Corrigan’s debut YA novel follows a high school freshman as he deals with harrowing circumstances and confronts traumatic memories.

On a stormy California evening, a 15-year-old named Walker Morrison stumbles into a church with a bullet wound in his shoulder. As the resident priest tends to his injuries, Walker recounts the events of the last year, starting with the previous summer. He was about to enter his first year at May View High School, a prestigious private school largely populated by the rich. At first, things seemed to be going well. He earned a position on the football team and scored plenty of invitations to wild parties, and after breaking up with his middle school crush, he started dating a beautiful girl named Katherine Lambart. Outside of school, he had a passion for music and dreamed of being a movie director. However, events took a turn for the worse when his best friend Josh Brand’s dad returned to town. He’s an abusive drug addict who disappeared five years ago after trying to pull a gun on his wife. After Walker crossed him, the teen became immersed in a world of threats and violence. Despite some slow pacing in the book’s first half, the plot eventually delivers some well-executed, high-tension action scenes. However, Walker’s flaws, including his ignorance of his own privilege, his objectification of women, and his disrespectful attitude toward his parents, are definitely drawbacks. It’s eventually revealed that his behavioral issues stem from a distressing childhood experience, and he realizes the importance of discipline through his relationships with teachers and other role models. However, his comportment doesn’t drastically change after these revelations. In the words of Walker himself: “Not that I’m not still an asshole; I’m just self-aware now.” Whether this redeems him is dubious, and his distasteful personality may turn off many readers.

An intriguing exploration of the teenage psyche, but its protagonist is difficult to like.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5320-5865-3

Page Count: 248

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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