A rousing series opener with equal portions of action and social commentary.

NEFFATIRA'S FIRST CHALLENGE

Xavier’s (Dark Curses, Faerie Dreams, 2017) YA fantasy features a girl who takes a trip across the universe.

Fourteen-year-old Neffie Anderson is self-conscious about being tall and having pink freckles on her cheeks. She’s also the only dark-skinned student at Millard Fillmore High in Windmere, Iowa. She wants to fit in, so she hikes a dangerous hillside one weekday morning with popular girl Jessica’s clique. After Neffie looks over a steep ledge, her longtime seizure condition—which she’s convinced is epilepsy—triggers, and she temporarily passes out. That night, a man named Gannen Sargie Vong, who also has pink freckles, visits the Anderson home; he’s Neffie’s paternal grandfather. He takes her onto the roof, which sets off her condition again, and he tells her, “The reddest star will show you the way.” The next day in school, Jessica tells Neffie that they were once best friends, but Neffie has no recollection of this. They head to an upstairs room to help Neffie remember. This time, as Neffie succumbs to strange visions, Jessica holds her tightly, and they both travel to a place with a “pumpkin colored” sky and a reddish sun. This is the “Fastness”—an entirely different universe. Neffie, it turns out, is known as Lady Neffatira here, and she belongs to a blood-clan known as the Sargies who duel with other clans for possession of people. Xavier’s latest novel is a fantasy that explores aspects of bigotry in intriguing ways. For example, people with green eyes, such as fellow human Kerem Alp, are automatically considered thieves in the Fastness. The novel also features striking visual descriptions; for instance, when Gannen activates Neffie’s power, “The stars brightened, crackled and began oozing...like drips of glowing water rolling down black glass.” In the end, although Neffie is too young to fully embrace her destiny as one of the Fastness’ “half-human super-champions,” she nevertheless risks all for love and life. After this installment’s cliffhanger, fans will likely flock to a sequel.

A rousing series opener with equal portions of action and social commentary.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63393-842-7

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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