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Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1954

ISBN: 0399501487

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Coward-McCann

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1955

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Lively, moving, and heartfelt.


Seventeen-year-old Noah struggles with the feelings he has for Sam, a childhood friend, and is encouraged to express himself by an ebullient buddy.

Noah and his friend Walt Disney Jones, aka Swing, are linked by a love of baseball. Swing is also obsessed with jazz and tries to make Noah a devotee as well. Along with their various personal dramas—Swing’s new stepfather, the romantic advice Noah is receiving—someone has been planting American flags around town, leaving folks to speculate who and why. At a thrift store, Noah purchases a travel bag as a birthday gift for his mother and inside he finds long-hidden love letters. They encourage him to put his feelings on paper, but Swing forces his hand by anonymously giving his writing to Sam, causing a rift between them. Then, out of nowhere, everything changes, and the innocence of their lives is shattered as their friendship troubles are put into perspective by something far more serious. The free verse tells a story as complex as the classic jazz music woven throughout. Noah is the narrator, but it is Swing, with his humor, irresistible charm, and optimism, who steals the spotlight. All the secondary characters are distinctive and add texture to the narrative. Swing is African-American, while Noah is white. Despite the easy flow of verse, there is a density to this story with its multiple elements.

Lively, moving, and heartfelt. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-310-76191-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A nuanced yet plainly told novel about a runaway teen in the 1970s.



A teenager hits the road after her life derails in McGuinn’s literary novel.

When 14-year-old Peg thinks of her future, she hopes it will involve writing and travel—maybe a career in journalism or the Foreign Service. In the journal she’s required to keep for her English class, most of her entries are about her chaste crushes on her male classmates. When a student at a local college invites her to a frat party, she goes only to be drugged and raped by him and several of his friends. The next day, Peg begins to remember what happened, and her entire view of herself changes: “Actually, I’m beginning to have flashes of memory, some of the things I did and let them do to me. I did like it, at least some of it. I’m such a slut. Who will ever want me?” She soon fears that she’s pregnant. She runs away from home, hoping to get to Harrisburg to stay with a friend, but she quickly ends up with an older man named Nick. She stays with him for a while, taking drugs and becoming increasingly codependent, until she realizes that Nick is a pimp with a house full of girls working for him. Peg escapes and resumes her journey, traveling across the country, attaching herself to problematic men, and bouncing through the rest of the 1970s far from home. McGuinn switches between the perspectives of an older Peg looking back on events and the younger Peg who writes in her journal, creating a layered portrait that involves realistic uncertainties: “Time plays tricks on our memories and I didn’t write very much in my journal those days. I was drunk or stoned with Charlie most of the time.” In some ways, the novel is a brutal cautionary tale, showing how one mistake can spiral into a life-changing series of events. In another, however, it is a moving coming-of-age narrative about a girl who discovers herself amid extreme circumstances.

A nuanced yet plainly told novel about a runaway teen in the 1970s.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Durare Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2020

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