A poignant tale of friendship with realistic and admirable young characters facing some of life’s most difficult and complex...

Jacob and Lace

A young boy and his sick mother find family and refuge in Idaho.

“My mom’s sick. She needs help. I don’t know where she thinks she’s taking us, but we will probably die together there” is what young Jacob Lance wants to tell strangers at the Sacramento bus station. He has followed his silent mother there, who is later revealed to be suffering from severe clinical depression, and accompanies her as she wordlessly purchases tickets to take them both to Shoney, Idaho. Once they arrive in the small farming community, she wordlessly leads them to the house of Old John and Gert, their last living relatives and the first family Jacob has ever known. The gruff Uncle John spends more time with cows than people, but he quickly reveals a soft understanding and love for his nephew. Jacob helps John with the cows, becoming familiar for the first time with manure and early mornings, while his mother begins her slow recovery. Meanwhile, Jacob finds the small rural school quite different from the city life he knew. In particular, a spritely girl with yellow hair named Lace catches his attention and starts showing up at the dairy every morning, despite Uncle John’s assessment that the girl “runs wild around town like a stray cat.” As Lace and Jacob’s bond grows deeper, she begins to spark new life in the boy’s mother. This stirs both hope and jealousy in Jacob—just one of many complicated and deeply nuanced conflicts to arise as these two young people confront mental illness, death, and the failings of their caretakers. Like Sharon Creech’s classic YA novel Walk Two Moons, which handles similar issues against the stark backdrop of the American West, this book does not shy away from tough subject matter or wrap up the tale with a tidy, perfect conclusion. Anderson (Joey and the Magic Map, 2013) gives readers two fully realized central characters who deal with sad, painful events as best they can, sometimes even wrongly, creating a story about extraordinary childhood struggles that feels very powerful and very real.

A poignant tale of friendship with realistic and admirable young characters facing some of life’s most difficult and complex issues.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5170-1599-2

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

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Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.


In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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