A cool diagnostic tone helps capture the teenage experience but occasionally obstructs the emotional trip.


Dickerson’s debut tells a sympathetic coming-of-age story deeply embedded in ’90s music.

When a book about musically inclined teens begins with a five-page meditation on suicide, readers may assume not all will end well. That introduction sets the tone for the novel: reflective, unafraid of big-picture pronouncements—“Absolutely nothing is more do-it-yourself than suicide”—but also digressive. The main characters, Thomas, 17, and Bridget, 15, exemplify teenagers of the ’90s: Thomas dreams of grunge superstardom with his band of misfits, while Bridget barely survives her regimen of mood-stabilizers and antidepressants, her feelings of alienation erupting in a gangsta rapper alter ego. Yet the omniscient narrator freely swoops into the minds, memories and POVs of minor characters, giving sympathetic but brief glimpses into other lives. Mom and dad, for instance, may simply be parental obstacles to the kids, but we know them better as we glimpse into dad’s tour in Vietnam and his work as a judge, and mom’s free-love past. Other digressions add to our understanding (or memory) of the ’90s, placing in context, for example, the first Starbucks in the neighborhood or the church’s acoustic music night. These digressions turn out to be narratively motivated: The omniscient narrator turns out to be someone reflecting on the past. And yet some of the asides are less momentous or simply too long: At two pages, a digression on black-and-white motifs in pop culture and race relations begins to feel essayistic and detached from the novel. The digressions and broad declarations sometimes mute the main characters’ emotional journeys, while treating the teens more like specimens. Still, the cool, casual tone results in some knockout diagnoses of the ’90s teenage condition: “[Y]ou feel older as a teenager than you will ever feel in your entire life.”

A cool diagnostic tone helps capture the teenage experience but occasionally obstructs the emotional trip.

Pub Date: April 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985188610

Page Count: 329

Publisher: Kettle of Letters Press

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.



A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.


Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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