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Hawkes Harbor
S.E. Hinton
Tor UK, 289 pages

Hawkes Harbor
S.E. Hinton
Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Outsiders, her first novel, was published in 1967 by Viking. It was followed by That Was Then, This is Now, published in 1971 and, in 1975, Rumble Fish. In 1988, she became the first person to receive the YASD/SLJ Author Achievement Award, which was given by the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association and School Library Journal. S.E. Hinton currently lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her family.

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A review by Sandy Auden

Hawkes Harbor opens with a wonderful premise: a young man is admitted to a psychiatric hospital literally out of his mind. Dr. McDevitt is determined to discover what could have happened to an otherwise healthy twenty-year-old that could have driven him insane.

At this point, I started to expect a slowly unravelling plot concluding in a climactic revelation about the horror that caused such devastating trauma, but that was a mistake. Hawkes Harbor was never going to be that predictable because before you get a quarter the way through the novel it's all revealed: Jamie was driven insane by a vampire.

Suddenly, the forward momentum for the story stalls, there's no big mystery anymore, nothing to solve. And that's where it's very fortunate that S.E. Hinton is extremely good at characterization and prose because the only thing carrying the novel now is Jamie and the deep engagement Hinton achieves with the reader over the boy's troubles.

Jamie's problems started at birth. Conceived in adultery and born in sin, he's raised by nuns who repeatedly remind him (often with a leather strap) that he's never going to get to heaven. Told through a series of flashbacks, and interwoven with his current therapy sessions with Dr McDevitt, Jamie's past is revealed with an easy flowing prose. His adventures as a sailor on both sides of the law see him frequently inside exotic whorehouses and less frequently inside foreign jails. He smuggles and gun-runs his way around various oceans and finally arrives in the port of Hawkes Harbor.

Jamie's adventures to this point are created with crystal clarity by S.E. Hinton, but I found that events in Hawkes Harbor were disappointing in comparison to the rest of the novel. There is a rather abrupt and pointless conclusion at the end; the big moment that pushed Jamie over the edge failed to justify its destructive results; and the vampire fails to be any more scary than a serious version of Count Duckula.

And that perhaps gives us a small clue to what is amiss. While Hinton has produced several novels for teenagers this is her first novel for the adult market. While there's certainly sufficient language and sex to push it into an older age group, it still seems to have one leg in that YA market.

If Hinton can get both feet in the adult camp, then coupled with her silky prose and interesting characters, she's going to be formidable.

Copyright © 2006 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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