Toews captures the spurts and lurches of adolescent growth in a tale as crude and fresh as its subject matter.

A COMPLICATED KINDNESS

An amusing if somewhat rambling account by Canadian author Toews (Swing Low: A Life, 2001) of a teenaged girl growing up in the middle of nowhere.

All adolescents think they live in the dorkiest place in the world, but 16-year-old Nomi Nickle maybe really does. Her hometown of East Village, Manitoba, you see, is populated almost entirely by Mennonites, an austere Christian sect. East Village has a movie theater but no bars, discos, pool halls, McDonald’s, or Starbucks—and even the theater specializes in films about Menno Simons (who founded the religion and named it after himself). So it’s not really an MTV kind of place. But that doesn’t keep Nomi or her sister Tash from throwing themselves into the usual adolescent cauldron of hormones, scorn, and rebellion. Tash eventually runs away from home with her boyfriend Ian, and Nomi dreams of moving to the real East Village (in New York) and hanging out with Lou Reed. Even Nomi’s mother, Trudie, whose brother Hans (“the mouth”) is the town’s equivalent of the Pope, gets fed up with life among the elect and runs off to parts unknown, leaving Nomi alone with her sweet-hearted but ineffectual and very depressed father, Ray. Nomi copes by ignoring her studies, partying with the other slackers, and hanging out with her boyfriend Travis (who plays guitar and likes to run naked through wheat fields). It’s all on the gloomy side, but, if Nomi is to be believed, that’s what Mennonite life is all about (“A Mennonite telephone survey might consist of questions like, would you prefer to live or die a cruel death, and if you answer ‘live’ the Menno doing the survey hangs up on you”). Still, like any normal teenager, Nomi can’t imagine anything right about her family. Perhaps she’s the one who has the changing to do.

Toews captures the spurts and lurches of adolescent growth in a tale as crude and fresh as its subject matter.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2004

ISBN: 1-58243-321-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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JURASSIC PARK

Genetically engineered dinosaurs run amok in Crichton's new, vastly entertaining science thriller. From the introduction alone—a classically Crichton-clear discussion of the implications of biotechnological research—it's evident that the Harvard M.D. has bounced back from the science-fantasy silliness of Sphere (1987) for another taut reworking of the Frankenstein theme, as in The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Here, Dr. Frankenstein is aging billionaire John Hammond, whose monster is a manmade ecosystem based on a Costa Rican island. Designed as the world's ultimate theme park, the ecosystem boasts climate and flora of the Jurassic Age and—most spectacularly—15 varieties of dinosaurs, created by elaborate genetic engineering that Crichton explains in fascinating detail, rich with dino-lore and complete with graphics. Into the park, for a safety check before its opening, comes the novel's band of characters—who, though well drawn, double as symbolic types in this unsubtle morality play. Among them are hero Alan Grant, noble paleontologist; Hammond, venal and obsessed; amoral dino-designer Henry Wu; Hammond's two innocent grandchildren; and mathematician Ian Malcolm, who in long diatribes serves as Crichton's mouthpiece to lament the folly of science. Upon arrival, the visitors tour the park; meanwhile, an industrial spy steals some dino embryos by shutting down the island's power—and its security grid, allowing the beasts to run loose. The bulk of the remaining narrative consists of dinos—ferocious T. Rex's, voracious velociraptors, venom-spitting dilophosaurs—stalking, ripping, and eating the cast in fast, furious, and suspenseful set-pieces as the ecosystem spins apart. And can Grant prevent the dinos from escaping to the mainland to create unchecked havoc? Though intrusive, the moralizing rarely slows this tornado-paced tale, a slick package of info-thrills that's Crichton's most clever since Congo (1980)—and easily the most exciting dinosaur novel ever written. A sure-fire best-seller.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1990

ISBN: 0394588169

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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