THE NEW KID

The life of a 16-year-old boy goes from bad to worse when he leaves his financially strapped parents to become part of a wealthy family’s psychodrama.

Humphrey is, once again, the new kid at school. After years of his parents’ failing at jobs and moving from state to state to start anew, he’s used to it. This time around, it’s a Florida high school where he is wearing the wrong clothes and sitting next to the wrong kid on the bus and going “home” to a motel because his folks can’t afford the security deposit on an apartment. Eventually, Humphrey targets Wade—older, buff, at ease in his own skin—as the cool kid to give him entrée to the cafeteria society. Soon they are lifting weights together and hanging out with Wade’s slutty-but-nice mom, Brandy, and Wade’s hottie girlfriend Chantal. But then a party at Brandy’s gets out of control, and Humphrey winds up badly beaten. Enter Gretchen, Humphrey’s older half-sister, whom their mom resents because she had wanted to be an actress but quit when she became pregnant with Gretchen. Gretchen wants to help Humphrey, but she has a few problems of her own. Her character on a popular TV series has just been killed off, and her boyfriend of four years, Rajan Lansing, has just given her the boot. His mega-wealthy parents have always treated her like a daughter, so she doesn’t tell them about the break-up (Rajan is in L.A. looking for acting roles). Instead, she talks the Lansings into flying Humphrey to Europe to join them on their yacht for a summer-long Mediterranean cruise. The Lansings have a bad marriage, and the addition of Humphrey stirs up a storm. An all-hands-on-deck climax brings this implausible story to its inevitable, melodramatic conclusion. Schrefer (Glamorous Disasters, 2006) reaches for the psychological precision of Patricia Highsmith, but with cartoon characters and a preposterous plot, this reads more like a perverted Richie Rich.

Grim.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9909-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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