RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books... psychologically complex and lyrical ... profoundly intimate ... Although Girlhood is one of the most intimate and revealing books I have ever read, Febos brings a variety of outside source material to her explorations, from mythology to linguistic analysis of the way words are used against women ... if we read it closely enough, Girlhood has taken us closer to the eye of the storm of what it means to grow up female than most well-intended social-science and self-help books on the market. It is a text that adds up to far more than the sum of one woman’s parts .. Febos with rare acuity dismantles the various historical, literary, mythological, and everyday factors that lead to a girl being \'a thing of unknown value\'; but, in this deep dive of unpacking, she insists (and this is what makes Girlhood a thing of incredible value) that, yes, something has \'been lost or taken\' from us, and she redeems for us the parts of ourselves that we have been taught to hate. This triumph of learning to value herself enabled Febos to write a book that is somehow neither careful nor reckless but profoundly wise and healing, fearless and generous at once. With Girlhood, Febos has become much more than the edgy-but-brainy literary wild-child Whip Smart announced her as a decade ago, but rather — still only in her early 40s — one of our most crucial American writers.
PositiveLos Angeles TimesPart dystopian fantasy, part thriller, part giddy literary-nerd wordplay, Helen Phillips’ The Beautiful Bureaucrat, is both a page-turner and a novel rich in evocative, starkly philosophical language. That’s a rare combination, recalling work such as Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam and Positron series, if lacking Atwood’s psychological depth ... This slim novel, which can easily be devoured in a day, doesn’t always live up to Phillips’ great ambitions ... The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a novel more concerned with revelation than depth. But what is most impressive here is that Phillips has taken plot-twist epiphanies that are hardly new, in either literature or Hollywood, and delivered eerie, stomach-dropping surprises even to those who may believe they have it figured out. Although the somewhat stridently self-conscious wordplay drags the pace more than its final payoff reaps, this novel ultimately proves both clever and impossible to put down.
MixedThe RumpusLike so many Atwoodean characters before her, Aunt Lydia is formidably intelligent and subversively funny, though usually when only the reader is listening, and one step ahead of the men who believe her to be their subordinate and tool ... There is much to like about The Testaments, and I dare you, if you are a fan of either the original novel or the show, to be able to put it down. But The Testaments is a novel that, both aesthetically and in its critical reception, is more about political activism and our currently apocalyptic cultural zeitgeist than about strict literary merit, and it will not hold up to history under the same scrutiny as other Atwood novels for a few very clear reasons. Chief among these (and this may be what Myerson meant by \'lack of subtext\') is that none of the main characters of The Testaments provide any psychological surprises ... think of The Testaments less as one of the last great novels Atwood will give us (she is eighty, and I join her many fans in hoping she will live and write for another twenty years) than as an earnest political entreaty she is using her considerable platform to make ... Although Atwood can tell a story like nobody’s business, The Testaments reduces its women characters rather than complicates them, and is written towards a reductive audience as well.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksUnlike stories in which \'victims\' triumph over their \'perpetrators,\' Brodeur resists such neat delineations. Paced like a thriller, the first half of Wild Game exploits the reader’s interest in Brodeur’s scheming mother, who exists at the center of young Adrienne’s world. Further, Brodeur does not require of Malabar either teary repentance or blood sacrifice; in fact, one of the book’s more radical aspects is its surprisingly happy ending ... Brodeur offers one of the most humane looks at a profoundly flawed mother that I have read, and the feats of empathy and generosity it must have taken to do so, given the damage her mother did to her psyche and life, are as impressive as Wild Game’s storytelling prowess.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeThe Lonely Hearts Hotel is not surrealist or fantasy, but it does exist on a very edge of realism, unapologetically full of coincidences, near misses, and high drama that might often be considered 'too much' in a literary novel ... O’Neill pushes these coincidences past their novelty to the point that the pair’s eventual reunion feels as if it should be the novel’s end, but in fact the plot gets progressively wilder from there ... The greatest strength of O’Neill’s work is her wholly unique narrative voice, which is at once cool and panoramic, yet shockingly intimate and wisely philosophical. The novel brims with shimmering one-liners about gender, poverty, violence, sex, that stand out all the more jarringly in a novel that usually exerts a light, whimsical touch ... The Lonely Hearts Hotel is overstuffed with plot, and at times seems to go on too long. Such epic storytelling may ultimately be less than wholly compatible with the distanced, often explanatory point of view that holds the reader at arm’s length while paradoxically at times 'telling' too much. Overall, however, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is that rare find: a novel you have never before read anything quite like. O’Neill, a genius at metaphor, and who tackles graphic and delicate topics with rare tenderness and even charm, has created a sweeping story with elements of historical fiction, romance, crime and noir, yet writes in a style that authoritatively claims all terrain in her reach as her own.