PositivePopMatters... a stinging portrait of two discontented women clashing with the social systems built to oppress them. Butler slyly deconstructs the dominant understanding of happiness and success to conclude that it\'s all malarkey. Jillian is a subversive illustration of how contemporary detritus leads individuals to cycles of delusion and self-destruction ... Jillian\'s optimism and Megan\'s anger are defense mechanisms against their terrifying sameness. Both Megan and Jillian\'s offbeat personalities are written with wry humor and sly criticism, even if Jillian verges too close to the manic pixie girl stereotype ... Butler unequivocally renders conformity\'s insidious demand for standardization. Especially effective in indoctrinating children in the ways of uniformity and single-mindedness ... Jillian falls into the contemporary literary trend of depicting unlikable female characters enduring existential depression. A theme tiresome in its ubiquity ... By juxtaposing the two characters, Butler problematizes the polemic and subverts the patriarchal requirement for women to always be happy ... Butler coyly asks her readers to consider whether their contentious reading of Megan and Jillian is a reaction to the character\'s unlikability or the social inequalities they represent ... a frank account of discontent ... a depressing yet exacting criticism of modernity.
RavePopMatters... a piercing debut. The collection of 12 fictional short stories are affecting in their portrait of the human condition. Interweaving humor and critical commentary, Hampton champions the voice of rural Appalachia. Her strength is characterization, with each short story fully developing empathy and honesty. Her characters are flawed, but without alienating her readers, Hampton ensures each story delivers a recognizable parable ... Vibrant descriptions of the woodlands, the smoky mountains, and rural landscapes strengthen Hampton\'s narratives and temper the bleak subjects she undertakes ... F*ckface\'s realness provides a picture into a community while engendering the voices of its denizens.
PositivePopMatters... stirring ... traces the delicate and complex narratives framing Palestinian-American identities. Intertwining instances of racism and radicalization against resilience and strength, Mustafah\'s writing is impassioned. Her representation of the violence and hatred is brutal, certainly uncomfortable yet profoundly necessary. As Mustafah fully considers the ramifications faced by the Palestinian-American community, The Beauty of Your Face inserts an essential voice into contemporary narratives ... The strongest writing depicts Afaf\'s upbringing, specifically her struggles with assimilation ... an authentic portrait of girlhood ... On the one hand, the school shooting narrative is unnecessary since Afaf\'s coming-of-age story is so compelling. The fluctuating narrative is distracting, while Mustafah doesn\'t devote enough attention to fully developing the shooter character. Yet, on the other hand, Mustafah draws convincing parallels between the shooter\'s and Afaf\'s alienation and powerlessness. More so, the school shooting demonstrates how racist fervor manifests into violence targeting Palestinian-Americans. Mustafah demarcates the ongoing violence and discrimination as constantly shifting to maintain a tactical culture of fear ... Mustafah dismantles stereotypes about Muslim women. Her subversion is subtle, and she avoids righteous indignation ... Mustafah\'s voice thoughtfully and refreshingly reshapes Muslim identity ... Regardless of its missteps, The Beauty of Your Face positions Mustafah as a celebrated voice in the Palestinian-American literary movement. She pens an emotional and rich journey, laden with awareness and intrigue. The Beauty of Your Face testifies to shared humanity, one derived from schisms and connections.
Rebecca Dinerstein Knight
PanPopMattersWhereas the novel demonstrates moments of emotional intensity and humor, Hex\'s proclivity towards toxicity is overburdening ... Whereas the novel progresses, Nell\'s awareness does not. She dwells in an arrested emotional and physical space: she never exhibits growth ... Her languor is so overpowering that it burdens the entire narrative. She becomes repellent ... Hex is written as a journal in the second-person narrative, therefore Nell\'s love for Joan is fully experiential. But Joan\'s inability to respond to Nell with an iota of humanity is the novel\'s truest calamity ... At no point does Hex portray smart women as functional or collegial. Readers will certainly disconnect from these obnoxious characters ... Hex\'s strongest writing captures botanical histories. Dinerstein Knight relies on alchemy and herbalism ... Unfortunately, there is no equilibrium and Hex fails to beautify.
PositivePopMattersWhereas the novel is listed as a mystery, there are no red herrings as Dao is the disputable antagonist. Kamal unfurls a thrilling plot inundated with tense action personified by a dynamic, albeit flawed, female protagonist ... Kamal\'s novel utilizes crime-noir tropes but with purposeful deviations ... The crime noir genre became a popular form of escapism during the Great Depression, then resurged in the Nixon era. Crime noir\'s characters operate outside mainstream society. Their discontent and rejection of authority are subversive in a way that\'s impossible on a daily basis. It makes sense that Kamal revives the genre for this contemporary moment ... No Going Back\'s characters are primarily people of color, with several identifying as queer. In Kamal\'s hands, her characters no longer reflect societal taboos but are affirming individuals who\'s literary presence challenges systematic whiteness ... Whereas No Going Back is a successful thriller, Kamal takes two-thirds of the narrative to build the tension. It can be said this is the marker of a slow-burner. But her reliance on minuscule detail decelerates the storyline. The quantity of secondary and tertiary characters muddies the story while burdening the pace. The sheer quantity of characters engendering the billionaire criminal archetype is tedious ... readable as a standalone text, but a series reading would certainly mediate the novel\'s inconsistencies ... an engaging psychological thriller. Kamal\'s writing is canny. Her avoidance of an ahistorical crime-noir retelling is praiseworthy. Hopefully, this isn\'t Nora\'s finalé, as she will undoubtedly continue to beguile and intrigue.
J. M Coetzee
MixedPopMatters... dazzles in its ability to present profound questions while challenging the reader to remain critical and question the meaning derived from any and all parables ... There is a definite connection between the three novels, but it is possible to read The Death of Jesus as a standalone text. Coetzee interweaves backstory, enough to provide new readers with context but without alienating his devoted readership ... Whereas Coetzee\'s writing regularly utilizes parables, The Death of Jesus purposely destabilizes ... Here, Coetzee plays with the trust his readership offers him as an author thereby avowing the novel\'s purpose ... Coetzee smashes the proverbial mirror of interpretation but in a way that is haughty rather than subversive. Coetzee\'s point is acceptable when aligned with postmodernism but it is also unsatisfactory and renders the ultimate question: was this the author\'s intent from the beginning? Unlikely ... As a standalone work, the less involved narrative galvanizes a metafictional reading. But when considered among the trilogy, The Death of Jesus is Coetzee\'s weakest effort. He misses opportunities to revisit important philosophical questions such as the deconstruction of passion or ethical responsibility. Davíds death hurriedly concludes the narrative without establishing closure. Inasmuch as The Childhood of Jesus and The Schooldays of Jesus were driven by deep philosophical questions and drawn with striking allegory, the final novel is comparatively flippant and dismissive ... Over the course of his oeuvre, Coetzee\'s writing has adroitly communicated his intellect. Yet The Death of Jesus is only a glimpse into the breadth of his ideas and the third installment is an anti-climatic conclusion to an otherwise captivating trilogy.
RavePopMatters... a vivid exploration of the bondage and power of women ... From the start, Conjure Women adroitly unpacks the nuances of interbellum society, the influence of spirituality, and the power of superstition. Yet it is Atakora\'s reiteration of the current calls for racial justice that positions Conjure Women as an unadulterated masterpiece ... The Civil War does not represent a singular stage for pre- and post-war society. Rather, Atakora uses the Civil War to exhibit time\'s fluidity between a historical and contemporary moment ... Similarly, the discourses constructing women\'s control of their bodies and sexualities are another accurate reflection of modern discourses ... Conjure Women\'s depiction of slavery\'s atrocities is painfully authentic. More so, Atakora intentionally emphasizes the daily acts of violence to reveal the fullest extent of the abuse ... Readers will easily transfer Conjure Women\'s focus on the commodification of birth into the present and see how the trajectory disproportionately affects women of color ... testifies to the oppressive control prevalent in the past while drawing stunning parallels to the here and now. That injustice is currently facing a struggle and perhaps society has reached its turning point. However, Atakora makes it clear that unless oppression is dismantled now, it will remain in control through the future.
PositivePopMattersAt times [Tallent\'s] writing becomes a convoluted stream-of-consciousness ... For some readers, the style might be frustrating, but it\'s an indelible reflection of her inner turmoil ... By positioning her perfectionism along a continuum, she fortifies her unique experiences ... Tallent\'s memoir is honest, the lack of self-pity elucidates perfectionism\'s viciousness ... Tallent refuses to condemn the imperfect, she identifies value in the damage while Scratched locates beauty in the flawed.
RavePopMattersWoods\' text pinpoints the pervasive threat posed by institutionalized sexism ... Woods is methodical in her analysis and deliberately examines various cultural conditions informing her experiences with sexual harassment ... Woods unabashedly reminds readers that subversion is deemed as an absolute threat and an equally powerful weapon ... The acerbic vitriol Woods faces is informed by homophobic and sexist discourses. But Woods is on point ... With a writing style evocative of Gertrude Stein, Woods frequently relies on repetition to emphasize sexism\'s ubiquity ... Woods\' memoir is multifaceted and relatable, her writing is conversational and responsive. As such, 100 Times is the ideal tool for inciting the collective rage needed to subvert gender-based harassment and violence.
PositivePopMattersThe agitation is palpable throughout the novel. Undeniably Your House Will Pay is a clear meditation on modern racial discord. Cha\'s observations are shrewd, she adroitly captures the connection between race and the prison-industrial-complex ... Cha\'s criticism is poised ... Cha acknowledges the challenges new Americans endure but she also articulates the strife is often reduced by a privilege determined by skin color ... Cha is known for writing crime fiction, but Your House Will Pay is more akin to a fictionalized cultural criticism than a crime novel. Whereas the tension is stimulating, it isn\'t due to mystery or uncertainty: the suspense is rendered by its authenticity. Cha doesn\'t defy reality, and anyone who is aware of contemporary issues can predict the character arches. The red-herring is weak and cliffhangers cultivate unease ... This is Cha\'s statement: racism is unresolved. But this comes off as heavy-handed and an underestimation of the reader\'s intelligence. The novel\'s strength is in drawing a direct line from the 1990s Los Angeles uprising to the modern fight against racial injustice. Cha\'s depiction of systematic racism is compelling, attesting to the complicated social structures at play.
MixedPop MattersHumor, sharp observation, and magic are all effective tools for combating insidious gender oppression. Cecelia Ahern utilizes these devices in her collection ... Her stories and characters demonstrate the fundamental capriciousness of the injustices rendered by systematic gender inequality. But it\'s not enough for Ahern to merely illustrate the commonality of gender oppression, she goes further to firmly establish each of her characters\' personal and social growth ... apt to raise-consciousness and induce a few chuckles. Roar\'s strength is found in its depiction of empowered women, yet Ahern mistakenly centralizes a normative vision of feminism while reiterating the patriarchal control, that silences her female characters\' voices ... Ahern\'s ability to exhibit women\'s emotional growth is Roar\'s power ... Despite Roar\'s ability to harness women\'s strengths, the collection lacks diversity ... Whereas Ahern attempts to subvert dominant narratives, the stories still reinforce standardized heterosexuality ... Confusingly, and disappointedly, several of Ahern\'s women are led to clarity by men ... has some high-quality narratives mixed in with poorly-executed tales. Ahern\'s ability to imagine characters who find empowerment after hardship while exalting other women is refreshing. Yet her tendency to reaffirm dominant patriarchal narratives is cringe-worthy ultimately marring Roar\'s goal.
PositivePopMatters\"... Zusak has again proven his ability to present complicated and demonstrative ideas in an authentic and accessible manner ... Bridge of Clay is an epic novel thrusting readers into the middle of a rowdy and rambunctious family. Characters undergo sweeping arches exhibiting a human\'s culpability while extenuating flaws, grief, and regret ... Without question, Bridge of Clay features several points of entry for teaching and learning critical reading skills ... The entirety of the novel is character development and a study of interpersonal relationships. This results in long and tedious exposition ... Bridge of Clay stimulates the imagination while magnifying the readers\' compassion.\
RavePopMatters\"Wayétu Moore\'s debut novel, She Would Be King, is an astonishing feat of storytelling. Moore leads readers through an expansive and magical retelling of Liberia\'s cultural and social history. Throughout she challenges the historical record to demonstrate fallibility as the nation both resisted and supported oppression and marginalization of its own people. Likewise, her characters are antiheroes whose errors only develop their fortitude ... Moore skillfully incorporates indigenous history and myth to illustrate resistance and acquiescence to colonization. Her consideration of inter-tribal relations reflects a bottom-up history centralizing the value of tribal life, culture, and social contributions ... Moore\'s adroit deconstruction of larger historical narratives serves to complicate absolutism and hero worship.
MixedPop MattersEdugyan\'s ability to weave science and naturalistic observation through her writing is inspiring. Her understanding of the interconnection between science, society, and race is especially poignant ... Edugyan points toward colonial theory without critically addressing affirmations of white power. Edugyan misses the opportunity to dismantle whiteness while Wash\'s affective association with Titch verges on fetishism ... relies too heavily on pathos and is inundated with an impalpable mawkishness ... does provoke readers to question the idea of freedom ... Despite Washington Black\'s beautiful and imaginative storytelling, its missteps are hard to avoid. Where the novel excels at revisioning a history where achievement is obtainable, it also fails to address critical race conversations.
MixedPopMatters...an emerging voice in American fiction ... Whereas the collection\'s concept is intriguing, the execution is uneven. Joffre has a talent for making the macabre playful but ultimately Night Beast is disenchanting ... \'Night Beast\' is a provoking piece, as Joffre explores the subconscious\' role in sexuality and the social gradations of sleep-sexing. Night Beast\'s characters never define their sexuality in prescriptive labels and this is Joffre\'s rejuvenating outlook ... Several of the stories in Night Beast, however, lack both character and plot development ... Throughout, the characters\' identities are often muddy rather than crystalline. Joffre shines in her ability to spotlight women and queer characters, however, Night Beast is a fitful debut.
RavePopMatters\"... an intensively penetrating debut novel ... Orange is not writing for a distracted reader. The novel is engrossing and relies on complicated interconnected narratives built from small details, some subtle while others explicit ... There There positions Orange as the luminary who will reignite the Native American literary movement.\
MixedPopMattersThe Perfect Mother shines in its social commentary. Yet it\'s less adroit as a thriller. The entire novel is compulsively entertaining and readers will speed through to reach the resolution. Throughout Molloy also plants subtle pieces of evidence that coherently fall into place. This invites rereading to fully understand the intricacies of the plot\'s details. Without providing too many spoilers, the actual resolution is disappointing. Molloy relies on gimmicks including cliffhangers or narrative jumps to engage the reader. There are too many easily identifiable red herrings while their connection to the plot seems formulaic. Once the novel ends, the coincidental red herring is laughable. By no means is The Perfect Mother the ideal thriller. But in the sake of subverting perfection, it is enjoyable. That meritoriously stands alone.
MixedPopMatters\"Wolitzer is astutely aware of the larger social and historical forces that continuously oppress women, but her deconstruction of these mechanisms is glib. As a result, The Female Persuasion exalts white privileged feminism and fails to subvert oppression ... The strongest moment of The Female Persuasion is the depiction of abortion access and Wolitzer\'s commentary on reproductive justice ... Wolitzer is an aware author who clearly understands how matrices of power oppress and subjugate. Yet her characters only occasionally check their power or privilege. They even more seldomly step back to question why society accepts institutionalized oppression. It\'s maddening to see Wolitzer acknowledge these systems as The Female Persuasion remains inert.\
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, Trans. by Brian FitzGibbon
MixedPop MattersMany readers will find Ólafsdóttir's depictions of emotional pain and trauma engaging. Overall, however, Hotel Silence's portrayal of emotional transformation is unconvincing ... Throughout the novel Ólafsdóttir is able to successfully unpack the nuances of anguish. Yet Jonas' insularity and need of a motley crew to kickstart his reawakening is reiterative. Hotel Silence's strength is its raw depiction of trauma and grief; however, the overall character development and plot are bromidic.
PositivePopMatters\"As with any dystopian fiction, Red Clocks constructs terror by revealing the plot\'s speculation is grounded in reality ... Red Clocks centralizes dissimilar reproductive justice narratives and successfully avoids essentialism ... Red Clock\'s fails in its narrow characterization as white, upper-middle-class, cis women are the focus ... Despite missing significant feminist cues, Zumas\' novel is a helpful contribution to popular culture\'s overlap with politics.\