RaveBooklistExplores the nature of grief through deft and beautiful writing ... Affecting.
Ling Ling Huang
RaveBooklistHuang, an accomplished violinist, brings expertise to her debut ... The novel seamlessly blends SF, literary fiction, suspense, and body horror while also exploring the oppression of the beauty industry and the Chinese immigrant experience in America. The writing is lyrical even when plot events are profoundly tragic, and the protagonist’s journey will captivate readers throughout.
RaveBooklistWanda doesn’t appear on the page for some time, yet her presence permeates the text. Brooks-Dalton (Good Morning, Midnight, 2016) paints a luminous and wrenching portrait of a frighteningly possible future.
PositiveBooklist... chilling and intense, exposing the horror of a \'safe\' situation gone wrong. With tension and fear strung throughout, this is a perfect readalike for Erika Ferencik’s The River at Night (2017).
PositiveBooklist[Newman] brings Ash to life through a voice that is both hilarious and filled with crushing sadness, but the ultimate message is that of hope.
PositiveBooklistThe two stories intertwine, building suspense along the way. While the concept of Hell as an office building has been done, Lux’s take is fresh and complex, with deep character development and a plot that will keep readers guessing.
PositiveBooklistBlistering ... Bassist’s resounding voice will echo in readers’ heads long after they have finished the book. This is a reckoning with an unjust power system that hurts everyone.
PositiveBooklistWith its atmospheric swampland setting, Hartman’s debut brings to mind Delia Owens’ blockbuster Where the Crawdads Sing (2018), while the mystery itself is on par with Stacy Willingham’s A Flicker in the Dark (2022)...While the plot has many different threads to follow, the fast pace and short chapters keep the story moving for an enjoyable ride.
PositiveBooklist... hilarious ... \'Women for Decoration\' is particularly sublime, an homage to George Saunders’ \'The Semplica Girls,\' where rich people string girls from their trees as a display of wealth. Her awkward moments, such as the time she met James van der Beek of Dawson’s Creek fame, are both cringey and relatable. Mercado’s laugh-out-loud quarantine story will also delight readers of Phoebe Robinson’s Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes (2021).
PositiveBooklist... moving ... As Elena learns about her father’s past, flashbacks in Santiago’s perspective take the reader with her. While she is an adult, Elena’s story is very much a coming-of-age narrative as she finds both where she came from and where she wants to go.
RaveBooklist... a compelling, poetic, and chilling novel that examines fate and fear. The town’s unique and eerie culture indoctrinates its people, but Vera moves through this environment with both doubt and confidence. The mothers’ disappearances are also a metaphor for the pain and pleasure that come with motherhood itself.
PositiveBooklistFairbrother’s debut is characterized by its elegant yet comfortable prose—readers will feel at home with Ellie as if experiencing the story’s events along with her. The mystery drives the plot, but Ellie’s personal growth is the heart of the novel. Her journey is braided in with her new knowledge of her father, and her father’s past impacts hers as she learns who she truly is. This layered coming-of-age story will appeal to fans of Jennifer E. Smith’s The Unsinkable Greta James (2022).
PositiveBooklistGervais’ debut is a thoughtful and tender coming-of-age story. While Gina faces a great deal of trauma, including rape—she’s exploited in more ways than one—she has a tenacious drive and hope for future healing. Gervais’ gorgeously detailed illustrations are interlaced with the text, showing off Gina’s intricate designs and talent.
RaveBooklistChen’s third novel is sly and subversive, an examination of motherhood and an incisive look at culture and class.
RaveBooklistThough its characters are faced with incredible trauma and adversity, Printz Award–winner LaCour’s adult debut is lyrical and ultimately hopeful. Yerba buena—the \'good herb,\' which is also the name of the restaurant where Sara and Emilie meet—carries the reader through the pain and symbolizes a better future. Emilie’s journey of becoming an interior decorator after leaving her flower-arranging job will also appeal to new adults who may be unsure of their life paths.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
PositiveBooklist... the writing style is embellished and verbose, ideal for readers who favor a complex tome with lots of back story. Some may be disappointed after the faster pace of the blockbuster Plot, but the many twists in the final third are worth the wait.
Shelby Van Pelt
RaveBooklistTova’s gentle relationship with Marcellus is the heart of Van Pelt’s debut. The octopus’ point of view, though unusual, brings a magical haze to the novel, even as Tova and Marcellus realize their story is coming to an end. A unique and luminous book for fans of Eleanor Ray’s The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton (2021).
PositiveBooklistDolan spins a story that is both heavy and light, spanning continents and exploring relationships. With a hint of Dan Brown and a splash of Jamie Brenner, this book will appeal to a variety of readers, especially those who enjoy character-driven fiction.
RaveBooklistDespite the high-concept premise, Bestor-Siegal’s debut is not about the hunt for a killer or Alena’s culpability. It’s lyrically written and contemplative, pulling the reader into a complex web of vivid characters. Bestor-Siegal brings an authentic perspective from her own experiences living in France. A perfect book-group title, especially for Francophiles.
RaveBooklistThis is a slim and beautifully written novel, more literary than thriller but plot-driven all the same. Readers won’t know who to root for in this story that is ripe for discussion. Suggest to fans of unique mysteries.
RaveBooklistMurphy dazzles, creating unique perspectives from Scarlet, Blue, and Henry, plus a flash forward to Blue’s life as a concert pianist years after the murder. This novel will leave readers questioning what is real and how mental health can affect generations in kaleidoscopic ways. Murphy also explores the way art and music collide, bringing mother and daughter together through their passions. The subject matter and luminous writing will appeal to fans of Violaine Huisman’s The Book of Mother (2021), while those who enjoy a plot-driven mystery will also find what they are looking for.
PositiveBooklistA novel touted as a great love story between a mother and a daughter ... Despite vague time travel mechanics, the novel is poignant and ultimately uplifting. The mouth-watering descriptions of Katy’s food and the lush Italian coast bring a strong, atmospheric sense of place. Recommend to fans of Helen Fisher’s Faye, Faraway and those who enjoy being transported to other countries through fiction.
Jennifer E. Smith
RaveBooklistSmith’s first book for adults after eight successful young adult novels is a page-turner, smoothly written and engaging. Exploring themes of grief similar to Rebecca Serle’s One Italian Summer (2021), but through the wholly different and beautiful setting of Alaska, Smith delivers a satisfying read for book clubs, adventure lovers, and musicians.
PositiveBooklistPriest, best known for her Clockwork Century series, dives into a new genre with this unique mystery ... Light and irreverent, but with more serious themes, including grief and responsibility, this is an excellent series starter for Priest’s fans as well as new readers.
Hervé Le Tellier, Tr. Adriana Hunter
PositiveBooklistThe prolific Le Tellier returns with a novel both epic and small in scope...introducing a dizzying number of characters ... For many pages, it’s unclear why these people are connected, beyond the fact that they once got on a plane together. A shocking turn of events sends the novel in a different direction, leaving readers to contemplate what actually happened on that flight. While the high-concept twist might intrigue some genre readers, this book is better suited to those who are interested in literary fiction and works in translation. At times both sardonic and serious, it’s a lot to take in, but makes for a rewarding journey overall.
PositiveBooklistThis is an erudite, meandering novel, with many detours off the plot path. Part of Verna’s growth in L.A. includes her blossoming into an intellectual, so there are plenty of references to great works of literature. Recommended for libraries in literary-minded communities.
PositiveBooklistRoper successfully mixes humor with melancholy. Joel and Theo’s perspectives alternate, incorporating flashbacks which reveal both the depth and growth of their friendship. Bittersweet and full of heart, this book will appeal to fans of Jonathan Tropper and Matthew Norman.
PositiveBooklistWritten like a long personal essay with little dialogue, Huisman’s narrative will appeal to readers who are interested in biography and memoir.
RaveBooklist... sad, sweet, and hopeful ... the novel’s heart is its protagonist; readers will feel deeply bonded to Amy. Mystery lovers and fans of Liane Moriarty will also enjoy the quick-paced plot and perfectly timed reveals. This will be a must-read for many patrons.
PositiveBooklist[Ackerman,] a Brittany herself, writes in an easy, compelling voice ... The novel’s conflict lies in its lack of one, even when trauma emerges. Narrator Brittany expects explosions of drama to mark her young life, but her privilege insulates her, leading her to a future where she might one day process her struggles. For book groups and readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories.
RaveBooklist... [a] standout novel ... Strawser brings the seamless writing style, complex characters, and layered plot ... The high concept will attract book groups and fans of Jodi Picoult and Carla Buckley.
PositiveBooklistPsychologist Tucker’s first novel after several works of nonfiction gives readers a window into a disturbed yet complex mind ... This sharp-edged and highly discussable book is difficult to put down. While not recommended for those who are sensitive to violence against children, the story’s fundamental questions will appeal to readers of Ashley Audrain’s The Push (2021) and Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth (2018).
PositiveBooklistThis is a heady read, filled with surprising turns of phrase and unexpected relationships. The deep analysis of game theory—Diofebi left professional poker for writing—will appeal to fans of Michael Kardos’ Bluff (2018). Readers of complex literary fiction will appreciate the sharp and nuanced writing.
RaveBooklistMedwed...returns with this bright and poignant story. Annie and Sam are far from perfect, but Medwed’s witty voice, paired with the charming setting, wraps their flaws in a comforting and sweet package. For readers of Annie England Noblin and Jamie Brenner, with a dash of the small-town energy that cozy-mystery fans love.
PositiveBooklistThis is a sprawling, languid book, constructed from rambling, unhurried paragraphs that take many detours into the nooks and crannies of Rome. Readers who are interested in the Italian experience will find themselves immersed in it, even when the protagonist lacks focus. Gabriele shines most brightly when she is on the hunt for a new clue. Recommended for thoughtful readers who appreciate both the interior and exterior journey.
Laura Imai Messina, Tr. by Lucy Rand
RaveBooklistThe delicate story of Yui’s grief and how she patches herself together is punctuated by small vignettes about Yui and the other people in her life. For readers of Gail Tsukiyama and those healing from loss.
RaveBooklistIdentity theft takes on a new meaning in this fresh and arresting thriller ... the intrigue builds to a satisfying conclusion. Already optioned for film, Andrews’ debut is a page-turning, surprising read that will appeal to fans of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The First to Lie (2020).
María José Ferrada, tr. Elizabeth Bryer
PositiveBooklistFerrada, an award-winning journalist and author of children’s books, presents an adult debut as haunting as it is charming, a study in contrast between the simplicity of childhood and the heaviness of adulthood. Readers will fly through this slim novel, which is perfect for discussion.
PositiveBooklistThe reader is given some clues to the outcome through news articles and book chapters from the future that allude to the Maple Street Murders. These extra documents add to the rippling tension throughout. Distinguished horror writer Langan...knows how to make that tension pop off the page. A creepy standout for readers who want an extra kick to their suburban dramas.
RaveBooklistThe narrative splits into two; one stays in the present, while the other explores Sephine’s memories ... At times both sharp and haunting, this novel embodies the awkwardness and regret of adolescence, complicated by Sephine’s superior identity as a Divine. A layered and complex debut.
PositiveBooklistDeath truly is \'the center of everything\' in this lyrical, profound novel; Polly herself has survived, while many of her relatives and people close to her have not. While readers may feel at times as if they’re meandering down that long, winding river, Harrison...reels them back in by the end, pulling Polly’s memories together into a surprising ending. Recommended for book clubs and fans of complex, literary fiction.
PositiveBooklist... magnetic ... O’Connor shows how art can affect both its creator and its audience in unexpected ways ... O’Connor dovetails Jess’s perspective with those of the Zero Zone survivors, excavating the truth like an archaeologist unearthing a skeleton. Recommended for fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto (2001).
Sarah McCraw Crow
PositiveBooklistWhile this is a quiet book, readers will soar through the smoothly written prose and empathize with the strong characters. Suggest to those who loved Jennifer Weiner’s Mrs.Everything (2019).
PositiveBooklistPatrons will flock to this delightful and profound novel, which is already optioned for motion picture development. Jared helps readers see favorite films through fresh eyes, reflects on the idiosyncrasies of human life, and even teaches the core elements of screenwriting. Stephenson, a former Pixar writer, elegantly folds these ingredients into a sweet confection for readers of Graeme Simsion and Gail Honeyman.
PositiveBooklistBonner paints a thorough picture of her sister’s short but intense life, searching for the truth of what happened while also attempting to find closure. This lyrical and compelling memoir shows how Atlantis changed both Bonner’s life and the lives of others with her raw talent and electric presence.
Kate Reed Petty
RaveBooklist...[an] innovative, genre-busting debut ...The event’s repercussions ripple out through time, as Petty explores it from various perspectives until revealing a set of shocking truths. Alice gets to tell her side, too, but in a wholly unexpected way. Themes of friendship, abuse, reality, and trauma resonate in this puzzle box of a book, and readers will be unable to put it down until they figure it out.
PositiveBooklist... eerie ... Beukes’ tender, insightful treatment of the relationship between mother and son is significant, and the interplay between feuding sisters is fascinating, as well.
A H Kim
RaveBooklistAs Hannah digs deeper, the novel’s perspective moves between hers and Beth’s, giving the reader an insider view reminiscent of Orange is the New Black (2010). Surprising secrets abound in this fresh and inventive novel. Kim, a Harvard-educated attorney, brings a strong legal background to the intrigue, as well as a tender touch to character development and the interplay of the Min and Lindstrom family members. A standout debut.
PositiveBooklistThere is so much to examine here, from the harrowing experience of new motherhood to the role of a father in an infant’s first days. Amanda’s complex relationship with Deerling, which includes her own mother, is worth noting, too, and a twist midway through the book adds great intensity to the story. But the heart of the novel is Carrie and Amanda’s friendship, with all its sorrow and joy. A perfect selection for book groups.
PositiveBooklistWhile the stories are light on plot, each vignette is highly discussable and written with a deft hand. This slim volume, which includes stories previously published in Tin House, Paris Review, and elsewhere, will appeal to readers of best-of-the-year short story anthologies and fans of Charles Baxter.
RaveBooklistThis fascinating novel examines the many dimensions of war, from the tragedy of loss to the unexpected relationships formed during conflict. The Andamans are a lush and unusual setting, a sacred home to all kinds of cultures and people, and Liu’s...prose is masterful. A good choice for book groups and for readers who are unafraid to be swept away.
PositiveBooklistThis novel doesn’t fit cleanly into any particular genre. Instead, readers will need to construct their own meaning from the narrator’s plight. Prescott’s beguiling debut will appeal to readers who enjoy existential, sparse fiction, like Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman ... While the ephemeral details wear thin (“As the town disappeared, so did my grip on any particular town truth”), Prescott brilliantly captures the disconcerting effect of a town’s changing storefronts, people, and customs on the newcomer and Ciara, offering stark reflections on the young characters’ search for a sense of definition and permanence. Prescott is off to a strong start.
PositiveBooklistMcGhee uses thoughtful language and rich, meditative imagery to paint a picture of one young woman facing a difficult new path ahead. This book pairs well with Christina McDonald’s The Night Olivia Fell (2019), a thriller version of a similar concept; Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light (2018) also explores the gray areas in abortion rights and women’s choices. Like its comparable titles, The Opposite of Fate is a prime book-group choice.
RaveBooklist[Maum\'s] style is infectious—the reader gets an insight on what it’s like to be a real-life working writer, while also feeling close to the author and laughing along with her. This book is invaluable for the serious writer who is dedicated to publication, the rare title that’s both a reference manual and a page-turner. A core choice for public library collections, and a logical next step for budding writers who have consumed Stephen King’s On Writing (2000), Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (1995), and Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story (2017).
PositiveBooklist... an explosive finish. Soule imagines a future in which humans are addicted to this innovation that provides both benefits and danger and explores how the world could change if we could truly see from others’ perspectives. For fans of Blake Crouch and Tal Klein.
PositiveBooklist... a tragic, sweet, and hopeful novel ... Readers won’t feel sorry for him, but will root for him, wanting him to fully blossom into the connected, charming person he truly is. This is a story of healing, with a lot of humor along the way.
PositiveBooklistThere’s something for almost all readers here: family drama, romance, high-school gossip, fantasy-world building. Above all, Gailey shows us that humans are humans, even when they are magic, and they are still flawed, damaged, and oh so interesting.
PositiveBooklistStrawser is a clear master of the craft, drawing together a plot that seems at once impossible and fully believable. The novel’s pulsing anxiety continues through the triple narration from Liza, Molly, and Molly’s husband, Daniel. This is not a straight-up thriller; the multiple domestic subplots and sometimes-leisurely pace may deter some readers. However, the tapestry of story and character will lure book clubs and lovers of emotionally complex fiction.
PositiveBooklistSure to be a hit ... The innovative structure bounces around in time keeping the reader engaged and guessing through the slow-burn beginning as everyone tries to find out where Alice went and who is at fault. Once the pace takes off, the twists come fast. Perks is an author to watch, and this examination of true female friendship will appeal to many.