CHRISTINE

The Exorcist meets My Mother, The Car. . . in a chiller that takes a nifty Twilight Zone notion and stretches it out to King-sized proportions—with teen-gab galore, horror-flick mayhem, epic foreshadowing, and endlessly teased-out suspense. It's 1978 in a town outside of Pittsburgh. Football-player Dennis (the nice, if relentlessly vulgar, narrator) is a high-school senior—as is his best-friend Arnie, pimpled loner and natural victim. But everything begins to go askew on the day that Arnie falls in love at first sight with "Christine," a total wreck of a 1958 Plymouth Fury ("one of the long ones with the big fins") that Arnie buys for $250 from creepy old Roland D. LeBay. Soon, you see, Arnie starts changing: he stands up to his college-teacher parents (manipulative Mom, weak Dad) for the first time; his skin clears up; he gets a sweetly beautiful girlfriend, Leigh. After old LeBay dies, Dennis starts worrying—especially when he learns that the mean old man's wife and daughter both died in. . . Christine. And assorted spooky questions arise: How does Arnie manage to restore Christine to 1958 condition so fast? How does he instantly restore her again after Christine has been savagely attacked by some high-school bullies? And who—if anyone—is driving Christine when the killer-car then starts bloodily bumping off all of Arnie's enemies? (Arnie himself is always out of town when the ghostly hit-and-runs occur.) By this time, of course, girlfriend Leigh is starting to become disenchanted with Arnie—who seems to sit idly by while Christine. . . or something. . . tries to choke Leigh to death. And when even Arnie's handwriting seems to change, Leigh and Dennis become convinced that their friend has been quasi-possessed by the undead soul of evil Roland LeBay (whom they can sometimes even see at the wheel!). So they determine to somehow destroy the indestructible killer-car—in a finale-showdown at Darnell's Garage, with Dennis in a tank-truck and Christine (carrying yet more corpses) on the rampage. Nothing new, horror-wise (remember The Car, a 1977 film-cheapie?), and much too long; but King's blend of adolescent raunch, All-American sentiment, and unsubtle spookery has never, since Carrie, been more popcorn-readable—with immense appeal for all those fans interested in the 522-page equivalent of a drive-in horror movie.

Pub Date: April 29, 1983

ISBN: 0451160444

Page Count: 534

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1983

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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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