The revenge of a cellphone-hater.

CELL

King’s apocalyptic cautionary tale suggests that cellular communication could be as pernicious as it is pervasive.

Artist Clay Riddell has just traveled from his native Maine to Boston to sell his first graphic novel when all hell breaks loose. Vehicles crash at random. Language turns to gibberish. Bystanders devour the flesh of strangers. As King (From a Buick 8, 2002, etc.) describes this urban meltdown in gory, graphic detail, it becomes increasingly obvious to Riddell that all who have suddenly become crazy were talking on their cell phones. Some sort of simultaneous transmission has transformed the city’s citizenry into mindless zombies. The author taps into the collective dread of a society battered by 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as he depicts a battle for survival that pits “normies” such as Clay, the few who didn’t have cellular access, against hordes of “phoners,” who quickly develop a flocking instinct and telepathic communication. The plot can’t sustain the sizzle of its sensational opening: More concerned with the effects of this cell-phone terrorism than its cause, the author never indicates what’s happening beyond Clay’s immediate vicinity. Yet the hero’s odyssey remains compelling as he attempts to return home to estranged wife Sharon and beloved son Johnny, and the surrogate family of refugees he attracts along the way adds a human dimension. Clay doesn’t have a cell phone, but his son does, and he has no idea in what form he might find Johnny if he manages to find the boy at all. As King acknowledges in his dedication, he owes a debt to zombie-flick director George Romero and horror/fantasy author Richard Matheson.

The revenge of a cellphone-hater.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-9233-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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