Bites off more than it can possibly chew, then—poof—makes it all go away in the last 20 pages.

THE YEAR OF NEEDY GIRLS

When a 10-year-old boy is murdered and a high school teacher is accused of molesting a student, a small Massachusetts town is rocked to its ignorant core.

In the prologue of Smith’s debut novel, a Little Leaguer named Leo Rivera is kidnapped by his next-door neighbor, an unprepossessing auto mechanic named Mickey Gilberto. Not long after, Leo’s corpse is found at the bottom of the river in a plastic container. Meanwhile, lesbian Deirdre Murphy, a dedicated and popular French teacher at a private girls’ school, has been canned because an uptight mom witnessed her daughter planting an unsolicited kiss on the teacher’s lips. These two events tangle in the public imagination to produce a citywide outbreak of homophobia and a weirdly nonsuspenseful witch hunt, since the reader already knows who did and didn’t do what to whom. On the same day Deirdre loses her job, her librarian partner, SJ, attempts to break off their relationship, though bad timing prevents the severing of the limp connection. SJ has also recently received a problematic smooch—hers from the murderous pedophile Mickey Gilberto, whom she’s been tutoring in reading at the library. Even after the unasked-for kiss, she can’t help thinking he’s a nice guy. Alienated as they are, Deirdre and SJ can give each other no support as they endure their twin trials; each mentally muddles through her own back story and future prospects as she becomes the focus of police and public suspicion. The most promising part of this book is the depiction of Deirdre’s teaching, but it's buried under an avalanche of half-baked elements: police work on the two cases, unconvincing letters to the local paper, two-dimensional supporting characters, and unwarranted allusions to The Scarlet Letter. “How did Hester Prynne do it? she wondered. How did she face the town with her quiet pride and go on living her life, raising Pearl, not minding what anyone said or did? Deirdre didn’t think she had the strength in her.”

Bites off more than it can possibly chew, then—poof—makes it all go away in the last 20 pages.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61775-487-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kaylie Jones/Akashic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more