THE BASIC EIGHT

An adult young-adult first novel set in a San Francisco high school. Based on an actual California murder and already optioned by the producer of As Good As It Gets, the story centers on a high school clique, The Basic Eight. Narrating is Flannery Culp (—culp” as in blameworthy, “Flannery” as in O’Connor), a gifted senior and editor of the school paper, now flunking calculus, who is transcribing her Journal of a Woman Wronged in order to explain how it is that she’s been accused of leading a Satanic cult into murdering a teacher, as well as a fellow student, during a madcap drugfest fueled by absinthe, gin, and rum. Also on hand is Dr. Eleanor Tert, a therapist putting her own obtuse interpretation on the events told by Flan, although Tert is so parodistic that she (and pop psychologist Peter Pusher) may he a figment of Flan’s imagination. Flan looks up to Natasha Hyatt as the most self-assured creature in Roewer High School, a girl who does everything with a panache worthy of Cyrano. The other clique members are female except for budding chef Gabriel, a black who falls for Flan. Flan has just returned from a trip to Italy during which she wrote mash letters to Adam State, though, on her return, it seems that Adam will have little to do with her, especially since she’s going out with Douglas, who turns out to be gay. When Adam does make a play for Flan, who sees herself as a dumpy virgin, and then drops her, her jealousy leads to Adam’s slaying during a weekend drinking party. Did Flan kill Adam? You’re not quite sure, up almost until the second murder, whether this is an exercise in schoolgirl ironies or a serious novel. Will high-schoolers love the confusion? Will their parents find themselves befogged by the parodies? Is the author serious? Discuss.

Pub Date: April 29, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-19833-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1999

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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