Intelligent and fun, this fast-paced tale delivers kaleidoscopic settings and an adventurous love story.

Wilder

From the The Renegades series

Yarros (Ignite: Legacy, 2016, etc.) offers a shipboard romance between an extreme sports athlete and his ambitious tutor.

Incredibly wealthy Paxton “Pax” Wilder and three of his friends are the original Renegades, performing extreme sports stunts for their YouTube channel and dominating the X Games while finishing their college educations. Eleanor “Leah” Baxter is a senior at Dartmouth with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in international relations and planning for graduate school. When Leah is assigned as Pax’s tutor for a yearlong educational program onboard the ship Athena, she plans to use a businesslike approach. After all, her scholarship eligibility is tied to his grades as part of her contract, and continued funding for the documentary the Renegades are filming also relies on Pax’s academic success. When Pax pushes her into zip-lining at the ship’s launch party, her anger at his arrogance creates some distance. But soon, the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore. While negotiating the hazards of their new romance, they also must keep up with their studies, work on new stunts, provide documentary footage, and look for a traitor among Pax’s innermost circle. Unexplained accidents and rigged gear make this not only a betrayal of trust, but also a safety risk. There are other acts of treachery among the group members. And eventually, Pax will have to face the devastating consequences when Leah learns his secret. Pacing is swift and sure, foreshadowing is light and effective, and believable plot twists abound; the story races to its explosive, emotionally satisfying conclusion. Liberal but judicious use of profanity and love of wordplay (“I’m sure as hell not your beck-and-call girl. Especially not the call-girl part,” for example) enliven the narrative. And the chemistry between Leah and Pax absolutely sizzles. The tale, told in first person by each of them in alternating chapters, allows a deeper look at the characters’ fears, feelings, and ghosts. In Yarros’ skilled hands, these shifting viewpoints don’t feel contrived but like an essential device for enriching the plot. Even secondary characters are well-developed and their motivations explained. The exotic settings (Istanbul, Madagascar, etc.) and extreme sports stunts (parasailing, BASE jumping, etc.) never overwhelm the story; caught up in the events, readers enjoy an emotionally nuanced thrill ride. This escapist treat remains a page-turner until the end.

Intelligent and fun, this fast-paced tale delivers kaleidoscopic settings and an adventurous love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68281-268-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Entangled: Embrace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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

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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

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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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