Dangerous Neighbors, reflections on the Kirkus Review

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I always shake when I realize that reviews for a long-loved book have begun to come in, and so, when Egmont USA's Greg Ferguson sent along this Kirkus review of Dangerous Neighbors, I did breathe a sigh of relief—grateful, so grateful for the reviewer's compassionate reading of the story (thank you).  I was saddened by the final lines of the review, only because so much work had been done to check the in-vogueness of the language in the book.  The term narcissist, for example, which is questioned by the reviewer, originated in 1822, according to Merriam-Webster's (thank you, Greg, for re-checking that this afternoon, and thank you, the Egmont copywriting team, for taking such care throughout the copyediting process—even investigating, to my surprise and wonder, a certain baking ingredient purportedly but not provenly used during that era).

Nonetheless, I want to reiterate my gratitude for the kindness of spirit that pervades the review as a whole.  An author wants to tell a story rightly. But she also wants to tell the right story.  This review is full of gifts.
A young woman is lost in grief following the death of her twin sister in this tender, quiet work of historical fiction. Carried along by the character’s dreamily melancholy narrative style, readers will drift with Katherine amid the grandeur of Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Fair. At the novel’s opening, her grief has reached a breaking point. Employing an effective flash–back-and-forward technique, the author gradually reveals details about the girls’ relationship and the raw feeling of abandonment experienced by Katherine due to a clandestine affair Anna began in the months before her death. Eventually, the circumstances of her sister’s death are uncovered in an exquisitely crafted memory as lovely in its imagery as it is tragic. Ringing less true, however, is the modern feel of the dialogue, given the supposed era. For example, during an argument, Katherine calls her sister a narcissist—a term not yet coined in psychology at the time. While this may not jar all readers, teens with an eye toward historical detail will likely take notice. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

(Post-post note:  My wonderful friends are out there checking dictionaries of all sorts.  Narcissistic most assuredly appears in Merriam-Webster, as of 1822; in the OED, narcissism appears as of 1822, with narcissistic appearing in the early 1900s.  In either case, as I just noted on Facebook, this is all a brilliant reminder of just how mutating and ever-changing language is.  Perfection has long been beyond my reach (but never outside of my desire).  As a writer of fiction, whose protagonists are always smarter than I am, I'm going to grant Katherine her slight variation of the Merriam-Webster word, and let her sleep easy tonight.)


Anna Lefler said...

Oh, dear. I know how meticulous you are in your research and fact-checking. I trust Merriam-Webster as well.

Aside from that minor point, congrats on a review that is filled with so much that will draw appreciative readers.



Elizabeth Mosier said...

The reviewer should have done her research! Still, she adds to the intrigue with her review -- congrats!

Maya Ganesan said...

I wonder if the reviewer will ever find your blog and realize her mistake. :) I'm very excited for DN's release; I especially cannot wait to get my hands on a copy. Congrats!

Liviania said...

But what does the OED say?!

Congrats on an otherwise lovely review.

Sherry said...

I'm just wondering what teens he is talking about because I think they would need to be somewhat psychology astute, as well, for even thinking about questioning it. Weird.

(I didn't read the rest of the review because I stay away from reading reviews of a book that I'm really looking forward to; save them for after I've read and processed the book myself.) But I'm glad for ya!

Melissa Walker said...

Even if I didn't know how lovely your books are, this review would make me want to find out! Can't wait.

Beth F said...

Mostly I'm glad that you had a great copyeditor who did his or her job and looked up everything (even baking ingredients). Merriam-Webster's is the industry standard reference and that's the source to trust.

Lilian Nattel said...

Never mind the rest--the reviewer captures the beauty of your novels. Congratulations.

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