LAST ON HIS FEET

JACK JOHNSON AND THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY

A knockout.

Illustrator Daoudi and poet Matejka interpret the life and times of Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, framing their graphic novel around his 1910 championship bout in Reno, Nevada, and covering his rise in sport and culture and his undoing by the virulence of American racism.

In this evocative and entrancing telling, Johnson comes to boxing through blindfolded backroom brawls for food (and the amusement of White men). His exceptional fighting skills, physique, and drive ultimately earn him much more than a meal: fame, fortune, and the ire of the existing White power structure. Johnson brashly taunts his tormentors as he racks up win after win, chasing down the White champions who refuse to fight him, but to the reader he confesses the toll taken by the racism he’s been subjected to his entire life—a vitriol most nakedly expressed by the racial epithets that rain down on him from the crowd of frothy-mouthed White men packing the stands at his fights. Still, Johnson plays his hand to the best of his remarkable ability, plotting out his fights to look good as motion pictures and thereby generate him more income from movie screenings than he’d ever make from a fight’s prize money, theatrically recounting his greatest matches to paying theatergoers, and always pursuing his own interests, including White women. With red ink luridly accentuating the brutal black-and-white tale, Daoudi’s exceptional sense of anatomy, expressions, and choreography combine with the snap of Matejka’s text to vividly depict this defiant and flawed man’s struggle against a culture built to dehumanize him and equipped with laws to break him. You can’t fight city hall, but Johnson lands some solid blows on his way to the mat.

A knockout.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-631-49558-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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