by W. Lance Hunt ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017
An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.
Hunt, in his first novel, tells the story of two musicians trying to make it in the late-1980s Chicago scene.
Jonathan Starks and Scott Marshall were only supposed to come to Chicago for a party, but when the opportunity to rent a rehearsal space presents itself, the Columbus musicians jump at the chance to start fresh in the big city in 1988. Jonathan sings, plays keyboard, and gets all the attention, even if he thinks the comparisons that he gets to the late Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis are facile. He feels guilty about leaving his girlfriend, Amy, behind in Ohio—she’s done so much to help him grow as a person, after all—but the Windy City has no shortage of beautiful women to inspire his songwriting. Scott’s personal darkness is rooted in the death of his childhood friend, Sammy, who met a violent end years ago. He’s afraid of being abandoned again, and of getting taken for granted. It becomes clear that ambition can bring people together, but it can also serve as a wedge between old friends. Jonathan and Scott change their sound to fit in with the local craze for a new genre of music: “It’s music for your body to move to,” says Jonathan. “Electronic body music.” They recruit new members and are reborn as a group called Mercurial Visions. They find success, but not so much that the failures of their pasts don’t catch up with them, with some deadly consequences. Hunt writes in a dense, passionate prose that strives to enliven everything it touches. His description of a photographer could easily describe himself as an author: “His eyes seek; they’re always hunting, locking onto things for a moment….He’s like a hawk scanning the ground for something small and hard to see to swoop down upon and catch.” The intensity of the language, though, grows somewhat exhausting over the book’s 400-plus pages, particularly when combined with the obsessiveness of the main characters. That said, Hunt successfully conjures the story’s time and a place in masterful detail. Jonathan and Scott are not quite likable, but they are recognizable as the kind of ruthlessly creative types who find success only when they can keep their demons in check.An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.
Pub Date: April 25, 2017
Page Count: 434
Review Posted Online: July 21, 2017
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Stephen Chbosky ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 4, 1999
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
Page Count: 256
Publisher: MTV Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999
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by Walter Dean Myers ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 1999
The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes...
In a riveting novel from Myers (At Her Majesty’s Request, 1999, etc.), a teenager who dreams of being a filmmaker writes the story of his trial for felony murder in the form of a movie script, with journal entries after each day’s action.
Steve is accused of being an accomplice in the robbery and murder of a drug store owner. As he goes through his trial, returning each night to a prison where most nights he can hear other inmates being beaten and raped, he reviews the events leading to this point in his life. Although Steve is eventually acquitted, Myers leaves it up to readers to decide for themselves on his protagonist’s guilt or innocence.The format of this taut and moving drama forcefully regulates the pacing; breathless, edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes written entirely in dialogue alternate with thoughtful, introspective journal entries that offer a sense of Steve’s terror and confusion, and that deftly demonstrate Myers’s point: the road from innocence to trouble is comprised of small, almost invisible steps, each involving an experience in which a “positive moral decision” was not made. (Fiction. 12-14)
Pub Date: May 31, 1999
Page Count: 280
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999
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