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What a vibrant, propulsive, wildly intelligent and big-hearted slice of life Sophomores is, an intricate portrait of a family in crisis rendered with a great deal of humor and compassion. I loved this family, this corner of the world, this novel. -Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one b What a vibrant, propulsive, wildly intelligent and big-hearted slice of life Sophomores is, an intricate portrait of a family in crisis rendered with a great deal of humor and compassion. I loved this family, this corner of the world, this novel. -Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy's unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents' surprising journey alongside him. It's fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions--about God, and about men in power--she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life. With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.


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What a vibrant, propulsive, wildly intelligent and big-hearted slice of life Sophomores is, an intricate portrait of a family in crisis rendered with a great deal of humor and compassion. I loved this family, this corner of the world, this novel. -Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one b What a vibrant, propulsive, wildly intelligent and big-hearted slice of life Sophomores is, an intricate portrait of a family in crisis rendered with a great deal of humor and compassion. I loved this family, this corner of the world, this novel. -Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had The late 1980s come alive in this moving and keenly observed story of one boy's unforgettable sophomore year, and his parents' surprising journey alongside him. It's fall 1987 and life as normal is ending for the Malone family. With their sterile Dallas community a far cry from the Irish-American Bronx of their youth, Pat and Anne Malone have reached a breaking point. Pat, faced with a debilitating MS diagnosis, has fallen into his drinking. Anne, his devoutly Catholic wife, is selected as a juror for a highly publicized attempted murder trial, one that raises questions--about God, and about men in power--she has buried her entire life. Together, they try to raise their only son, Daniel, a bright but unmotivated student who is shocked into actual learning by an enigmatic English teacher. For once, Dan is unable to fly under the radar, and is finally asked to consider what he might want to make of his life. With humor and tenderness, Sophomores brilliantly captures the enduring poignancy of coming of age, teenage epiphanies and heartbreak, and family redemption.

30 review for Sophomores

  1. 4 out of 5

    Athena (OneReadingNurse)

    Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,'t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets! Such a great premise.  I latched onto "enigmatic English teacher" and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph! Let's start with Dan: he is Thank you so much to the publisher for my giveaway digital ARC of Sophomores!  I don,'t always gravitate towards general / literary fiction but read the last 50% of this one in one night and have no regrets! Such a great premise.  I latched onto "enigmatic English teacher" and decided to give the book a shot! The book follows each member of the Malone family for about a year, and I think the easiest way to review this one is to give each character/storyline a paragraph! Let's start with Dan: he is a sophomore in a private high school for boys, smart but not drawing attention to it. His absolutely brilliant honors English teacher sparks a sense of Give-A-Shit into Dan when Mr. Oglesby challenges the class to not be regular rats, but Norwegian rats! It's just something you have to read.  Dan deals with his father's alcoholism and sickness, and the family's overall dysfunction, while navigating sophomore year amongst a group of realistically loveable and ridiculous friends.  I liked having glimpses into their shenanigans and family troubles, and they were funny! It's not a party til someone shoots a firework out of their ass, right? 😂😂 Anne, the mother, is selected to be a juror in a local high profile attempted murder trial, where a Reverend tried to (allegedly) murder his wife .  I think Anne sees herself and her own suffocation in the victim.  What a life, I can't imagine having a blithering alcoholic husband who loses his job and keeps spending money on alcohol! I would be screaming and picking fights too, but I have to hand it to her for staying in the house.  Anne's unravelling is pretty sad to see Pat, the father, is an alcoholic like his own father.  He loses his job at the airline after enough people catch him drinking when he should probably be working or available for work.  He knows he's sick, with both MS and Alcoholism, and has an epiphany in the hospital at one point where he and this other alcoholic are just taking up beds for people who might be having real emergencies. Yep, that happens.  I really disliked Pat, I'm kind of surprised he wasn't scared of alcohol after his own childhood.  His point of view served to show the family's history a bit too though and then he became the broken head of a broken  household, trying to break the cycle he was stuck in. Would Oglesby like that analysis? I wish my AP English teacher cared so much! Anyway - all of the storylines form well rounded, thoughtful characters.  Dan's hilarious friends and high school life offset some of the tougher themes like faith and broken families.  It is a very real story that spares no feelings whatsoever, and I did read the last 50% in one sitting 😳 My only thing was the absolute number of words I had to look up! I consider my vocabulary pretty well rounded and I was still thankful to be reading on Kindle so I could just click words! So many words. I would totally recommend for anyone interested in high school nostalgia, literary discourse, football, Irish American slice of life, fiction in general, and family stories!

  2. 4 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    In the fall of 1987, Dan Malone is a high school sophomore and this will be a year of change for the entire family. His father Pat has to deal with job pressures, new health issues and his growing alcohol addiction. Dan’s mother Anne, is placed as a juror in a sensational, attempted murder trial where the victim, the wife of a Reverend, remains in a coma. Anne is also trapped in her own existence and the trial impacts her greatly. Dan finds relief in the support of his friends and inspiration fr In the fall of 1987, Dan Malone is a high school sophomore and this will be a year of change for the entire family. His father Pat has to deal with job pressures, new health issues and his growing alcohol addiction. Dan’s mother Anne, is placed as a juror in a sensational, attempted murder trial where the victim, the wife of a Reverend, remains in a coma. Anne is also trapped in her own existence and the trial impacts her greatly. Dan finds relief in the support of his friends and inspiration from his tough and challenging English honors teacher at the Jesuit Preparatory School of Dallas, David Oglesby. While fiction, Sophomores is a highly biographical book by author Sean Desmond who, like the main character, was transported from his close-knit Irish Catholic community in the Bronx, New York to North Dallas, Texas. Mr. Oglesby is based the author’s teacher, using his actual name to honor his real-life hero. He must have been quite special as the scenes in the classroom are extremely engaging as Mr. Oglesby pushes his students in creative ways to truly understand the works they are reading while also teaching them life lessons. The struggles of Dan’s father Pat are heartbreaking as he seeks alcohol to resolve his problems, as his own father did before him. And Dan’s mother Anne is the character to feel the most for as she is not finding much happiness in her life. This is a coming-of-age story that will stay with you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shira Udin

    I thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age book set against the backdrop of the 1980s in a sterile Dallas suburban community where the innocence of youth is chipped away at by the harsh reality of family struggles. I laughed, I cried, I related, and I was sad when it ended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peggy Parsons

    There was nothing in this book I wanted to read about. Yuck on the topics.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I was very disappointed in this book, it took me almost a week to read. I couldn't stay focused. I made myself finish it but wasn't worth the money or the time.😔 I was very disappointed in this book, it took me almost a week to read. I couldn't stay focused. I made myself finish it but wasn't worth the money or the time.😔

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anne Meyer

    Disappointing and ultimately boring. I get it: all three main characters are “wise fools.” The stories seem so disconnected— maybe also part of the point —and in the end I didn’t care what happened to Anne, Pat, or anyone else in the book

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    Sophomores I could not get into Sophomores. I quit at 8%. Boring as all get out. Hard to follow. Who cares?!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    The book was an easy and quick read but not fulfilling. Three characters, family, living together but without a shared story other than the father's drinking and even that was a lose tie (the son, Dan, hardly acknowledges or is affected by it). It was as if they didn't really exist in each other's world. I didn't care about the character's because there was no growth and no real resolution to their story. Dan wanted to be a Norwegian Rat (special), but did he really care? I didn't feel as if he The book was an easy and quick read but not fulfilling. Three characters, family, living together but without a shared story other than the father's drinking and even that was a lose tie (the son, Dan, hardly acknowledges or is affected by it). It was as if they didn't really exist in each other's world. I didn't care about the character's because there was no growth and no real resolution to their story. Dan wanted to be a Norwegian Rat (special), but did he really care? I didn't feel as if he did. He was named one, but I never got the feeling he actually had to suffer or work for this goal. The two parents were pretty one deminsional and clichéd. The father an alcoholic and the mother escaping into another world (in this case a murder trial she is a juror on). All of them trying to find purpose in their life but even in failure not really trying. I was just left wanting more than I got from this book. It almost feels as some of this is taken straight from the author's own sophomore year of high school. It is the kind of story that friends and family may look back on and nod knowingly, but the rest of the world doesn't quite get.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mom

    A gripping tale of three members of the family who are each facing major challenges but seem to have no communication between them to help each other. Dan, the sophomore in high school, is going through basic teenage angst trying to find his place both socially and academically while navigating turmoil at home. His mother, a seemingly devote Catholic, is still struggling with issues that caused her to stop training to be a nun. She is called for jury duty in a high-profile attempted murder case A gripping tale of three members of the family who are each facing major challenges but seem to have no communication between them to help each other. Dan, the sophomore in high school, is going through basic teenage angst trying to find his place both socially and academically while navigating turmoil at home. His mother, a seemingly devote Catholic, is still struggling with issues that caused her to stop training to be a nun. She is called for jury duty in a high-profile attempted murder case where the defendant is a minister, accused of trying to murder his wife. Meanwhile, her husband is struggling with the onset of MS, addiction to alcohol and the sudden loss of his job. Their stories are told with humor and compassion resulting in a terrific book that you can’t stop reading but don’t want to end.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Barnes

    Sophomores by Sean Desmond is a coming of age story of the main character, Dan Malone. The Malone family has relocated to Texas for Pat Malone’s job. However, Pat ends up losing his job. The story presents the challenges faced by the family including Pat’s struggle with alcoholism and multiple sclerosis, Dan’s struggle with finding motivation and getting through high school, and Anne’s struggle as she faces life with an unemployed, drunk husband. Anne is chosen to a juror on a sensational murder Sophomores by Sean Desmond is a coming of age story of the main character, Dan Malone. The Malone family has relocated to Texas for Pat Malone’s job. However, Pat ends up losing his job. The story presents the challenges faced by the family including Pat’s struggle with alcoholism and multiple sclerosis, Dan’s struggle with finding motivation and getting through high school, and Anne’s struggle as she faces life with an unemployed, drunk husband. Anne is chosen to a juror on a sensational murder case where a pastor is accused of murdering his wife. This novel tells three different stories in one, those of Pat, Anne, and Dan Malone. This book portrays a coming of age story and follows Dan as he matures and realizes what is going on around him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    ARC provided by the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. The main character, Dan, is a sophomore in high school, and given the title, you’d think this would be the most compelling part of the story. It’s not. The portions of the book when Dan is in school are the least interesting to me, with his personal exploits with friends and girls being a little more engaging. Dan’s mother’s storyline as she is a juror for Reverend Raleigh’s trial is the most intriguing element, whil ARC provided by the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. The main character, Dan, is a sophomore in high school, and given the title, you’d think this would be the most compelling part of the story. It’s not. The portions of the book when Dan is in school are the least interesting to me, with his personal exploits with friends and girls being a little more engaging. Dan’s mother’s storyline as she is a juror for Reverend Raleigh’s trial is the most intriguing element, while I was overall most captivated by his father Pat’s drinking problem. (Also, I expected the episode with Carmen and her daughter to come back at some point later to haunt Pat - maybe they robbed him or he contracted HIV or something, but nothing further ever came of it.)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Christensen

    I thoroughly enjoyed the mother and father’s stories portrayed in this novel but wasn’t able to connect to the child’s story & wasn’t hooked by it. I enjoyed how this story went back and forth between each character and did feel the “coming of age” theme throughout this. I was able to visualize this book being turned into a show and was thinking about different actors that could play each character.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Goodreads winner! Interesting story about family dynamics, feeling trapped, and coming of age. Dan is coating through school until he gets to his English class. There is finally forced to think and it makes him rethink his family, his behavior, and his future. Anne is overworked, tired, and disillusioned with life. She gets picked for a news worthy jury trial and it gets her thinking about life and her role in it. Pat is sick, but trying to hide it from family and friends. He is also a closet alco Goodreads winner! Interesting story about family dynamics, feeling trapped, and coming of age. Dan is coating through school until he gets to his English class. There is finally forced to think and it makes him rethink his family, his behavior, and his future. Anne is overworked, tired, and disillusioned with life. She gets picked for a news worthy jury trial and it gets her thinking about life and her role in it. Pat is sick, but trying to hide it from family and friends. He is also a closet alcoholic. The two are causing issues both professionally and personally. He knows he needs to to turn things around, but can he? Story starts out strong, lags a bit in the middle, but picks up at the end.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Hernandez

    Addiction sucks 5.5/7 “Dan felt a sudden awareness, a shimmering sense of discovery, that his journal, the newspaper, music, writing, reading, it was all connected with some hidden purpose... The hour when he would take part in the life of the world seemed to be drawing closer, and Dan wanted to think and write and listen to his heart and find out what it felt.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    A BRILLIANT COMING OF AGE STORY Every once in a while a book comes your way that is so magnificent and inspiring, you feel as if you won the lottery. This was that book. A beautiful and praiseworthy story of a family in Texas who is faced with their own separate challenges and struggles. A memorable story that will stay with you long after you finish. I did not want this book to end!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lindewirth

    With a few exceptions when the writing went a bit too into the weeds regarding sports, I loved this story. I laughed out loud at times especially when the story revolves around Dan. I wish my son’s teachers would read this book. We could certainly use a few teachers like Mr. Oglesby. All in all a great read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne Hussey

    This is a coming of age story in Reagan era Dallas of a young man's sophomore year in highschool. The story blends together his honors english class, his father's chaotic life as an American Airlines executive in the time of deregulation + his mother, who is sitting on a jury of a highly publicized attempted murder trial based on an actual case at that time. This is a coming of age story in Reagan era Dallas of a young man's sophomore year in highschool. The story blends together his honors english class, his father's chaotic life as an American Airlines executive in the time of deregulation + his mother, who is sitting on a jury of a highly publicized attempted murder trial based on an actual case at that time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Kilpatrick

    This book was fantastic. It was fun to read about classmates of mine, but the characters and story are well crafted. It has a definite Dead Poets Society feel to it, which is high praise coming from me. It’s packed with literary references and is just really well written. I don’t often give books five stars, but this one earned it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Bruso

    I can't stop thinking about this book. I liked how Desmond linked mother, father, and son into this family saga set in the 1980s. Each chapter told the story of Anne, Pat, and Dan as each person spent their life struggling, going through motions. Outstanding! I did not want it to end. I hope Desmond writes another book. I can't stop thinking about this book. I liked how Desmond linked mother, father, and son into this family saga set in the 1980s. Each chapter told the story of Anne, Pat, and Dan as each person spent their life struggling, going through motions. Outstanding! I did not want it to end. I hope Desmond writes another book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Obenauf

    Maybe pushing closer to 3.5 stars. I always enjoy stories that involve going back to school as it takes me back to those days and makes me remember the ease of school, as well as discover new things in the memories. Overall though, the narrative felt disjointed between Pat, Anne, and Dan with little overlap.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jan Norris

    This is the story of a family of 3 that moved to Dallas from NYC in the 1980’s. It is a coming of age story of Dan Malone during his sophomore year at Jesuit. My favorite parts are in Dan’s English class with his challenging teacher, Mr. Oglesby, a most memorable and real life character. There is humor and some heartbreak. I enjoyed because it takes place in Dallas.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bureau

    These sad characters and family will especially resonate if you came of age in the 80’s. There’s a little bit of Joyce Carol Oates here, especially in the conflict of past and present in these character’s lives. The fun part is the rethinking of all the books you read (or didn’t read) in high school.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jones

    Genuine story about growing up, family, life changes, and the always present, life struggles. The story moves a draw to each of the character’s plight and a relatable time period of the 1980’s. Very good read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Braford

    I tried. I really did. But, I just could not engage with the characters or plot. Not worth my time, to continue trying to do so. I'm sure the book will find it's reader fan club, but unfortunately I won't be one of them. I tried. I really did. But, I just could not engage with the characters or plot. Not worth my time, to continue trying to do so. I'm sure the book will find it's reader fan club, but unfortunately I won't be one of them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pam Erickson

    A family works through problems in their lives; the father has MS and is an alcoholic, the mother is serving on a jury for a murder trial, and the son is finding his way as a serious student at a private boys' school. Pretty enjoyable read. A family works through problems in their lives; the father has MS and is an alcoholic, the mother is serving on a jury for a murder trial, and the son is finding his way as a serious student at a private boys' school. Pretty enjoyable read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    TexanHelen

    Meh. As a Dallasite, I thought it would be fun to read a "coming of age" book based in Dallas & revolving around things that happened in an area & time I've lived in/though. But the writing was mediocre & the characters didn't thrill me. Meh. As a Dallasite, I thought it would be fun to read a "coming of age" book based in Dallas & revolving around things that happened in an area & time I've lived in/though. But the writing was mediocre & the characters didn't thrill me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debharmon

    An interesting read -- a bit of a 1980s coming of age version of Catcher in the Rye. Enjoyed parts, pained by parts, but glad to have read it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ronald berthiaume

    interesting read but lost me on some parts.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Fun little coming of age / slice of life novel that pulls heavily from authors on time at an all boys jesuit school so there was obvious appeal there.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Glenda Calloway

    I liked this book because I lived in the Dallas area in the late 80's, so much of the historical content and locations were familiar to me. I liked this book because I lived in the Dallas area in the late 80's, so much of the historical content and locations were familiar to me.

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