A fresh, engrossing tale of a misfit kid pitting his dreams against an unforgiving society.

85A

A sensitive, gay teen confronts the hostility of almost everyone he meets in Chicago in this coming-of-age novel.

Fifteen-year-old Seamus O’Grady just wants to be himself: slightly effeminate but stridently profane; obsessed with punk rock; immersed in edgy writers, from William Blake to Henry Miller; and desperate to escape from Chicago to London to become a celebrated playwright. Unfortunately, his White, Irish Catholic neighborhood and Jesuit high school—St. Xavier’s, to which he travels on the 85A bus—still persecute those traits in 1989. Gay-baiting and bullying by classmates and his parents make him attempt suicide by car exhaust. He’s even rejected by other outcasts: Punk scenesters deride his Johnny Rotten impression as hopelessly passé, and he’s savagely beaten by skinheads who steal his hat. On the meager upside, he’s a born actor, his drama teacher says; his psychiatrist is supportive; and he has a friend in Tressa, a Black, bald actress, artist, dancer, and physics whiz who intimidates the skinheads with her imperturbable moxie. Unable to return Tressa’s advances, Seamus fantasizes about going to Britain with Colby, a charismatic punk with whom he had a single, riveting encounter months ago. Smith’s yarn feels like an updated The Catcher in the Rye, with Seamus matching Holden Caulfield’s alienation and angst. Seamus is also, like many teens, callow, grandiose, snobbish, and overwrought. (“Its eyes are so startled, you’d think it’d actually been alive long enough to see what a fuckin’ horrible world this is,” he observes of a fetal pig in biology class.) The melodramatic novel somewhat uncritically endorses Seamus’ immature dudgeon, given the over-the-top hate he gets from other characters. Still, the author is a gifted writer who skillfully deploys energetic, evocative prose. His panorama of Chicago is grungily atmospheric—“Two large Latinas shrieked and ear-pierce-belly-laughed over Schlitz cans as they sat on stools, talking Spanglish on the front fire escape”—and Seamus’ arresting voice indelibly conveys the wounding loneliness of adolescence. (“I was going to do my usual thing of shuttling my ass, all alone, up and down the stairs between the main floor and video room” at a club, “wishing I had someone to talk to, wishing I knew people.”) Seamus isn’t the wisest of heroes, but many readers will see themselves in him.

A fresh, engrossing tale of a misfit kid pitting his dreams against an unforgiving society.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-935098-26-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bascom Hill Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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