Even the most nostalgic reader will be sick of all the brand names and band names by the time Dunn manages to combine...

DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME

The Rolling Stone reporter and memoirist (But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous, 2006) remembers the ’80s in her first novel.

In her 30s, Lillian Curtis is old before her time. Her idea of fun is eating creamed chicken on toast with the septuagenarian talk-show host who is not only her boss but her best friend. She discovers that her husband wants more excitement out of life when she arrives home one night—looking forward to an evening of comfy socks and pizza—and he tells her that their marriage is over. In the midst of a break-up and with nowhere to live in Manhattan, Lillian goes back to her parents’ house in New Jersey. Removed from her adult life and settled into her girlhood room—a shrine to her teen years that hasn’t changed a bit since the late ’80s—Lillian has a chance to be young again. In fact, with her 20-year reunion on the horizon, Lillian not only reconnects with her adolescent girlfriends, she also gets another shot with the mysterious, alluring guy who might have been her one true love. Dunn understands that, to a reader of a certain age, the idea of experiencing John Hughes-style romance one more time is irresistible, and she can be a sharp, funny writer. But it turns out that Lillian was a loser and a jerk in high school—she let boys walk all over her, she threw over her fat friend to be popular—and she becomes a loser and a jerk all over again when she tries to recapture the thrills of youth. By the time Lillian begins to realize this about herself, the reader might be too fed up with her to feel she deserves yet another chance. And the ’80s references wear thin pretty quickly, too.

Even the most nostalgic reader will be sick of all the brand names and band names by the time Dunn manages to combine Tretorns and the Violent Femmes in the same sentence.

Pub Date: July 29, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-345-50190-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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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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