From Publishers Weekly
Middle child Jacob Vine searches for his place in the world and in his family in Dolnick's wryly comic if unsurprising follow-up to Zoology. Sandwiched between golden child Will and deadly adorable younger sister Cara, Jacob never quite figures out his role, and after his mother dies of cancer when he's in seventh grade, Jacob, ill-equipped to even manage his first real romantic relationship, must add a new dimension to his half-formed identity: motherlessness. He eventually finds a niche studying biology. Of course, Jacob's fictional liberal arts college in the Adirondacks isn't Harvard, Will's alma mater, but Jacob takes to it and agreeably shuffles through the leaving-the-nest gauntlet. Dolnick can admirably distill complex adolescent angst down to precise phrases, and he has an easy hand with Jacob's adolescent romance, though the strained relationship between the brothers (Cara seems like an afterthought) is never particularly revelatory. It's a solid coming-of-age in which Dolnick does his work quietly: sincere and direct, devoid of stylistic flourishes or narrative fireworks. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Echoing themes from his debut novel, Zoology (2007), Dolnick revisits those moments in life that truly define a person. There is no major conflict or ultimate goal here, only a journey through life and the evolution of one utterly earnest Jacob Vine as he navigates a fragile family dynamic, colorful friends, and a continuously strenuous romantic life. Told over the course of 15 critical years from child to adult, the novel spotlights Jacob in telling vignettes. Sometimes these moments seem small, like how sweaty hand-holding can be for a nervous teenager, but others are clearly consequential, like his mother falling gravely ill. Each milestone carries Jacob a little further along, though, growing a little bit more each time.The years pass by so steadily, always with beautifully constructed settings and fully realistic characters, that by the end, readers will feel a sense of nostalgia, maybe not just over Jacob�s life but also over their own. Dolnick�s quick pace and light style, paired with smart storytelling, will resonate well with the early-twenties crowd. --Casey Bayer