I am also pleased to report that The Blue Star by Tony Earley is just as beautiful and funny and poignant as Jim the Boy. I don't think I will have time to write a fuller review, alas, so I'll just say that Jim discovers girls -- or one girl in particular -- and has to wrestle with that pleasure and responsibility in the shadow of World War II. The particulars are so perfect that this very local and simple story becomes universal and heartbreaking; it's wonderful, and I cried. The first chapter's here (though eggh, reading it on the USA Today site really can't compare to reading it in a book), and a nice interview with Mr. Earley from a few years ago here.

(I will also note -- fodder for a future blog post -- that Mr. Earley has mastered the rhythm of language in creating fiction: His sentences get longer and faster and less punctuated when his characters are swept up in action or emotion, the same way Philip Pullman breaks up the lines when the sky splits open in The Golden Compass or Jennifer Crusie runs on every sentence in a sex scene. Mary Karr wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education years ago where she pointed out that you can understand T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land if you just read it out loud and listen to the rhythms and breaks, ignoring the footnotes entirely. The same thing happens in good prose: Every comma counts.)