THE DEAD ZONE

The Stand did less well than The Shining, and The Dead Zone will do less well than either—as the King of high horror (Carrie) continues to move away from the grand-gothic strain that once distinguished him from the other purveyors of psychic melodrama. Here he's taken on a political-suspense plot formula that others have done far better, giving it just the merest trappings of deviltry. Johnnie Smith of Cleaves Mills, Maine, is a super-psychic; after a four-year coma, he has woken up to find that he can see the future—all of it except for certain areas he calls the "dead zone." So Johnnie can do great things, like saving a friend from death-by-lightning or reuniting his doctor with long-lost relatives. But Johnnie also can see a horrible presidential candidate on the horizon. He's Mayor Gregory Aromas Stillson of Ridgeway, N.H., and only Johnnie knows that this apparently klutzy candidate is really the devil incarnate—that if Stillson is elected he'll become the new Hitler and plunge the world into atomic horror! What can Johnnie do? All he can do is try to assassinate this Satanic candidate—in a climactic shootout that is recycled and lackluster and not helped by King's clumsy social commentary (". . . it was as American as The Wonderful Worm of Disney"). Johnnie is a faceless hero, and never has King's banal, pulpy writing been so noticeable in its once-through-the-typewriter blather and carelessness. Yes, the King byline will ensure a sizeable turnout, but the word will soon get around that the author of Carrie has this time churned out a ho-hum dud.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 1979

ISBN: 0451155750

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1979

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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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