RaveThe New York Journal of Books... will unexpectedly destroyed the reader. On a surface level, it is a bildungsroman for queer millennials, complete with a reference to Goethe, capturing the mundanity and fragility of existence under capitalism, the ever-present threat of poverty, and the incandescent promise of joy ... what sets Mathews’ novel apart is the brittle, aching beauty of her prose, which knifes through the reader with the force of a revelation ... Sneha’s narration vacillates between caustically irreverent to sentences that snare the reader with truth ... While not self-referential, Sneha’s character grapples with the quintessential project of any good writing: how to shape life into story, imbuing it with meaning ... Mathews captures that turbulence. Over the course of the novel, Sneha, surrounded by a compelling cast of supporting characters, finds love (and loses it), finds hope (and loses it, only to find it again), finds community (and learns how to sustain it), and by the story’s end, at last finds the prickly, raw, unbearably vulnerable wound of herself—and where to turn for healing ... Mathews brings the disparate narrative threads of the novel together, reaffirming the reader’s faith in humanity despite—and because—of Sneha’s reluctance to recognize it ... The novel is also frankly hilarious. The humor is quintessentially millennial, speaking through a generational lens that will nonetheless appeal to a wider readership, and is also subversive. The text exchanges are real and rich with character voice. The social commentary is bitingly funny. The repartee between friends invites the reader in without ever feeling forced. Mathews uses this humor to skillfully delve into the many facets of her characters’ personalities, revealing the ways in which we hide from each other as well as share ourselves ... perfect for readers interested in the complexities of coming of age in this modern world. While some readers might find the social justice narratives distracting, others will recognize how skillfully Mathews uses the social commentary of the supporting cast to complicate the reader’s understanding of Sneha’s experiences. Never is the novel naively idealistic, nor does it veer too deeply into trauma. The result is a balance of grief and joy that readers will find both cathartic and inspiring—because Mathews is right. All this could be different.
RaveThe New York Journal of BooksNghi Vo delivers a Gatsby for the new 20s: decadent, dangerous, and dripping with magic ... Vo’s 1920s New York City is richly portrayed, and her attention to detail grounds the reader as they follow Jordan from party to glittering party ... The events of Vo’s novel follow the same series of events as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but readers do not need to have read the earlier novel to enjoy The Chosen and the Beautiful. Those who have read both will admire the ways in which Vo both evokes the spirit of Fitzgerald’s book, while also poking subtle fun at some of its more outdated views ... Perhaps the most enjoyable parts of the novel are Jordan’s observations about the people around her. At turns devastating, witty, and revealing, she charms the reader and those she interacts with, even while the reader is aware of the intense vulnerability beneath her façade ... Ultimately, The Chosen and the Beautiful offers up a lush glimpse of decadence and corruption, interrogating America’s dark history through the eyes of a narrator it is impossible to forget.
RaveNew York Journal of BooksIdeal for fans of Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree and R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, The Councillor is an ambitious Machiavellian debut following the rise of palace scholar Lysande Prior to power following the death of her closest friend, the queen ... Beaton grounds emotions in the body with her prose, a theme that parallels the emotional and physical changes taking place within Lysande as she grapples with her new position, addiction, loss, and the strange changes within her own body ... Beaton’s characters are complex, flawed, and deeply human. Each is written with empathy and an understanding of the many facets of desire, and Beaton subtly flips gender roles; in this world, women are warriors and rulers, and sexuality is stripped of the confines of homophobia, breathing new life into the fantasy setting ... Readers who enjoy political intrigue in their fantasy will find Beaton’s debut deeply satisfying.
RaveThe New York Journal of Books... breathes life into the women of Norse mythology with nuance and wit, ensuring the novel an enduring place in readers’ hearts—and shelves ... fill[s] in the gaps of myth with prose that is delightful, at times surprising, and epic from start to finish ... gripping, evocative, and alternatingly joyful and heart-breaking. Gornichec’s prose is lyrical and fierce, just like her protagonists. She works within traditional mythic prose parameters while also modernizing the language for a contemporary audience. Her dialogue is especially vivid ... Never anachronistic despite the contemporary feel, the freshness of the exchanges between the characters brings their personalities into sharp relief ... The humor in Gornichec’s dialogue is rarely the laugh-out-loud variety, but its consistency offsets the occasionally tragic turn of events, tossing the reader a lifeline ... This isn’t to say the tragedies lack depth—far from it. Angrboda’s heartbreak is palpable and gut wrenching, and even though the reader knows how the story must end, thanks to Angrboda’s gift of foresight, Gornichec manages to surprise ... Her pacing is tight, turning the domestic into adventure and adventure into quest, with the stakes mounting ever higher. The moments of happiness and peace are few and far between, and the reader longs for more. However, Gornichec understands that conflict drives plot. Her pacing never flags, and readers, unsatiated, will enjoy the bitter sweetness of the ending all the more.