An incendiary tale featuring mythic and realistic elements.



A girl whose skin is black on the right side of her body, white on the left, becomes a magical figure in an apocalyptic future in this YA fantasy novel.

A full-on race war rages across a near-future America, pitting black and white Americans against one another: “There was no African American anymore, no Asian, no Native American, and no more Hispanic or Middle Eastern people. If you weren’t white, you were black.” The assassination of a far-right president by a militant black separatist leads to a police-state climate, resulting in murders, arrests, and mass incarcerations of black people in cities across the country. For Jetta, a sheltered 14-year-old girl in New Orleans, the horrors are particularly personal; she was inexplicably born half-white, half-black. When she was an infant, firefighters and paramedics barely rescued her from a deadly church-burning by neo-Nazis. Raised by her loving grandmother in a black household, she’s considered freakish by both militant factions; as a result, she customarily hides the white side of her face under a hoodie in public. The genocidal destruction of a New Orleans neighborhood makes Jetta a fugitive; Tyler, another resilient survivor whose brother is a fighter for a black nation-state, accompanies her. Jetta’s other traveling companions include the friendly ghosts of her grandmother and other slain friends, plus a cheerful, drum-playing drunk who, significantly, bears the name of an African storm god. In short, exciting chapters, prolific thriller writer Rose (Waltzing Matilda, 2018, etc.) spins an action-fantasy yarn with a hot-button premise that will strike some readers as urgently timely and others as being in questionable taste. As the story goes on, it moves away from gritty, gory descriptions of large-scale urban civil warfare and into magical-realism territory involving spirits and symbolic monsters, akin to those in Neil Gaiman’s 2001 fantasy novel, American Gods. Rose strives ambitiously to make a bigger metaphorical statement about the nature of human conflict, although it’s an unfocused one with an open-ended conclusion. Readers may find it easier to latch onto the story’s nightmarish left-versus-right mortal combat than its immortal deities wrestling with their destinies.

An incendiary tale featuring mythic and realistic elements.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973279-42-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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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