Bradley Sides is a writer and English instructor. He is a contributing writer at Electric Literature. His work appears and is forthcoming at, among other places, Chicago Review of Books, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, and The Rumpus. He is at work on his debut collection of short stories. For more, visit bradley-sides.com.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... consistently transmits an aura of wisdom ... While looking at issues related to truth, Palmer also presents an interesting dichotomy that examines religion and science — how the two function in harmony and in opposition ... certainly ambitious — even occasionally to a fault (some of the medical scenes are a little too lively). Nonetheless, the novel’s level of ambition shouldn’t arouse intimidation or feel like a deterrent; in fact, it should be a prime reason to pick up Palmer’s book. The novel asked me to think about myself — my beliefs and my actions—in ways that made me uncomfortable. I had to set the book aside several times. I needed space to deal with the trauma and situations within the pages, but I always found my way back ... The language Palmer uses feels just as meticulous as the surgeries Howard and Zachary perform. This kind of thoughtful, detailed approach in the writing style feels necessary for a novel of such magnitude ... Palmer is a bold and daring writer, and Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen is a novel that captures his voice at its very best ... wonderful.
RaveChicago Review of Books[A] haunting debut novel ... It nearly goes without saying that The Unpassing is certainly a difficult read—one that will undoubtedly be too soaked in the tears of hopelessness for some readers. However, the amount of heaviness shouldn’t be a deterrent in undertaking the subtle world of wonder to be uncovered inside Lin’s affecting novel ... The Unpassing gives an affecting focus on showing its readers how children understand and process loneliness ... The Unpassing is heartbreaking and painful but so is life in those moments when we suffer. Lin’s novel knows this more than most.
PositiveChicago Review of Books... remarkable ... Readers of The Ash Family should know that there are as many turns in this novel as there are for drivers heading up a summit of a real-life North Carolina mountain. Characters appear. Others disappear. The past comes back. Sometimes, I think, even the future becomes the present. Dektar handles it all with great finesse, and the narrative holds up firmly until it reaches its (mostly) satisfying ending ... the kind of novel that should be read slowly. Yes, it’s propulsive and ridden with moments of tension, but savoring on the layered secrets found inside the unraveling Ash Family’s farm is the real treat here ... an engaging book about searching for ourselves in a deeply complicated world.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books\"Pierce uses humor to create an almost paradoxical sensation that affectingly pulses throughout The Afterlives. Jim’s story is funny because it’s so realistic, but it’s also so absurd that it’s impossible ... While the novel remains comedic, a deep, philosophical sentiment also makes itself known in the novel’s second half. Pierce astutely asserts that reckoning with death and the afterlife shouldn’t be avoided because these two things are as essential to the human experience as the very act of living is.\
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksPierce uses humor to create an almost paradoxical sensation that affectingly pulses throughout The Afterlives ... There’s a genuine sense of pain—a strong, dire one—that Pierce captures in The Afterlives.\
PositiveElectric LiteratureBed-Stuy is Burning balances the multiple layers of stories going on with great success ... Platzer captures these characters and their stories in a convincing and, ultimately, compassionate way. It’s this kind of delicate handling that makes Bed-Stuy is Burning work so well ... While Platzer’s novel is undoubtedly a good one, the tension does get a bit overwhelming in the second half, and the pacing is a little too quick in sections. The thrills, too, extend longer than necessary. These, though, are minor qualms. Bed-Stuy is Burning, with its diverse voices and sincere depiction of the fight for social equality, is a mighty fine debut from a writer to watch.
RaveElectric LiteratureStephen Florida is hard to classify. Yes, it’s an intense character study, but it’s also a fierce and ambitious horror novel, exploring the very real dangers we try to keep at bay in so many of our seemingly harmless obsessions. There are scenes so remarkably dark that I had to put the book away. There’s anger in these pages?—?and there’s pain. The atmosphere, cold but simultaneously sweaty, makes everything click with a steady, yet animalistic precision. Some readers might argue that Habash’s debut is overlong or overripe with intensity. Perhaps it is, but the raw grittiness contained in these pages is part of what makes the book feel so accomplished. Gabe Habash’s Stephen Florida is dizzying, dazzling, and, ultimately, divine.
RaveElectric Literature[LaValle] brilliantly and terrifyingly explores the common horrors of domestic life in his latest genre-bending novel ... LaValle has total command throughout the tight, short chapters contained in The Changeling. Every section builds upon the previous one in a way that makes each sentence feel necessary. The characters are believable, and the situations, although they are magical, seem just as plausible ... If you are looking for one book to read this summer, stop. Here it is. Allow Victor LaValle’s masterpiece to haunt your dreams.
RaveElectric LiteratureMagariel’s slim novel (under 180 pages) somehow, miraculously, manages to evolve slowly, building a haunting and tender experience that novels double One of the Boys’ size struggle to achieve ... Daniel Magariel is a name to remember because what he’s delivered with his debut is an accomplished work of dazzling, lyrical prose combined with riveting storytelling. The result is explosive and powerful. Magariel demands our attention. He’s more than earned it with One of the Boys.
RaveElectric LiteratureA Separation functions as a quiet, literary kind of horror novel, told with lyrical prose and minutely-observed commentary about the fear found in failing marriages and the monsters who occasionally exists within these pairings. A Separation is cleverly deceptive, and it possesses a strange, unsettling tone. Kitamura writes with an eeriness that is hard to shake ... A Separation is largely void of any voice except the one that carries it, and it’s a richer novel because of it. Reading of the narrator’s intricacies and personal lamentations creates a rich, intimate story that is addictively engrossing.
RaveElectric Literature...brilliantly terrifying ... With Loner, Teddy Wayne has written a masterclass on the privilege found in white male narcissism. David’s story is difficult to read, but it’s necessary.
Joe McGinniss, Jr.
PositiveElectric LiteratureCarousel Court is a gritty, raw novel that will have readers recalling the icy relationships found in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Adam Ross’ Mr. Peanut. McGinniss’ work is built on layers of tension and dark turns that, at times, surpass the twisted works of his contemporaries ... McGinniss deserves a lot of credit for handling the darkness so well. He never seems to overdo it. When he gets close to the edge, he adds in just the right amount of humor.
PositiveElectric LiteratureClose’s novel carries a deceptively light tone. Yes, it’s a comedy, and yes, it’s a relationship novel, but it’s so timely and so wonderfully realized that The Hopefuls isn’t just those things. It’s too good?—?too important?—?to be relegated as a work of genre. The Hopefuls captures the competition and ambition of today’s political environment, and that tension builds as the novel progresses. Close writes with a heightened awareness of how rooted the very nature of political struggle is within our very national identity.
RaveElectric LiteratureJesse Ball, in his sixth and best novel, How to Set a Fire and Why, creates a literary figure who stands as one of the great angst-ridden and misfit teenagers in contemporary American literature ... Ball constructs How to Set a Fire and Why in short chapters that rarely exceed a couple of pages. This segmented orchestration allows readers to fall into Lucia’s world, but it also prevents us from seeing too much of it. We can fade into Lucia’s life and see her struggling, but we are never in one scene long enough to truly get angry with her or to give up on her. Ball’s portrait of a helplessly reckless teenager is beautiful to behold.
Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner
RaveElectric LiteratureEverything is Teeth is strange, but its uniqueness is one of the memoir’s greatest assets. This is a book that isn’t afraid to be what it is, which is a meditation on childhood obsession and anxiety ... Wyld writes in such a lyrical prose that oftentimes Everything is Teeth has a poetic feeling to it. Joe Sumner’s gorgeous illustrations add a nice layer of beauty to the already fragile story ... packs the emotional punch of something twice its size.
Lee Clay Johnson
PositiveElectric LiteratureJohnson’s novel stands as a worthy addition to the growing canon of contemporary Appalachian noir populated by David Joy, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Ron Rash. In Nitro Mountain, the violence is palpable, the crime is widespread, the characters are immoral, and poverty and grit infuse the savagery that we know exists nearby. Through all of the darkness, Johnson never falls into the trap of making his characters cartoonishly evil or unrealistic. These are real, working people, dealing with what life has (or has not) given them. Nitro Mountain, like the place itself, is hard to resist because it’s so easy to identify with it.
RaveThe RumpusHart crafts something that reads more like a love letter than an obituary. Rosalie Lightning, in all of its sadness and pain, is focused on exploring the beauty of hope and love that can still be found in the world even after such a tragic loss.