An enjoyable and well-written supernatural tale, despite loose ends and a few missteps.

MS. MULLIGAN AND THE ENCHANTED ICE CREAM

When a sixth-grade Florida girl is transformed into a 20-something woman, she and her friends search for a cure in this debut YA paranormal novel.

On the eve of her 12th birthday, blond-haired Tabitha “Tabby” Easterland tells her best friends, Kat Dorsett and Dolly Hargrave, that she has one wish: to go with Finn McKinna to the junior high dance next year. But when Tabby wakes up the next morning, she discovers that she seems to have aged more than 10 years. Luckily, she’s not at home with her Aunt Patti, but at Kat’s house for a sleepover. (Tabby’s mother is dead; her father is institutionalized.) Tabby can’t go home, for the somewhat flimsy reason that she might be jailed “for the kidnapping of...herself.” The girls manage to establish a new identity for Tabby (Elise Mulligan), who gets a teaching job at her own school while they look for a remedy. Her mother’s diary, strange dreams of two evil sisters, and odd experiences confuse Tabby until Mrs. Bumble, a fellow teacher whose spare room the young woman moves into, gives her the bad news: She’s under a curse. A school field trip leads to a dangerous, dramatic confrontation with the Black and White sisters, named for their hair color. Though Tabby learns more about her family, the curse, and other matters, much work remains; the tale will continue in a sequel. In her novel, Elaine mixes up an entertaining blend of middle school best friend shenanigans with the supernatural—witchcraft, curses, a mystical society founded by an ancient civilization—and a family mystery. These last two elements are complex and well thought out, offering several surprises along the way. Although the book feels slow at 300-plus pages, frustratingly so since the story isn’t finished, it could grapple more with the implications of Tabby’s adult body. She’s embarrassed by her new figure but any interest or exploration stops there. And while it’s understandable that young people don’t want to look ancient, must “old and ruined” go together? Nevertheless, readers will likely be eager for the sequel.

An enjoyable and well-written supernatural tale, despite loose ends and a few missteps.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9981659-6-7

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Ingramelliott

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2018

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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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