MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"In his new book, Cullen spends barely three pages on the Parkland gunman, giving just the barest biographical details, mostly about his depression, and referring to him only as the \'mass murderer.\' It’s a noble goal, to refuse to feed our fascination with the deranged teenage killer or provide the convenient horror movie plot ... But that commitment also presents a separate narrative challenge, which is how to create a story with drama and tension. Cullen spent the 11 months after the shooting following the kids, which is enough time to plot the stages of their crusade but not necessarily enough to understand their internal struggles ... I did find myself wishing for some more depth, detail or psychological complexity, something to cement these extraordinary kids in the public imagination so that we’d never forget what they somehow managed to pull off.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s clear that Andersen is uncomfortable with the extreme relativism we’ve settled into. But he doesn’t grapple with what it might mean to give that up. If there’s a flaw in this book, it’s repetitiveness. Andersen seems by nature a collector. He goes for wide rather than deep. So he doesn’t examine, for example, how we would separate the junk from the gems. After all, the explosion of subjective storytelling is what has brought us new and beautiful voices in literature, on television and on twitter. At the end of his book he tries to redraw a boundary that moves us a little closer to sanity. 'You’re entitled to your own opinions and your own fantasies, but not your own facts — especially if your fantastical facts hurt people,' he says, echoing a comment by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. But the attempt is brief and feels halfhearted. By that point the pile up of detail — gun nuts, survivalists, web holes, scenes of cosplay, sci-fi shows and manufactured bubbles of hope — leaves a reader worried that a short manifesto on facts won’t save us.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe result is a novel that feels more like a fictionalized account, in ways that are both deeply satisfying and sometimes limiting ... This is an intimate family story, and these day-to-day parenting dilemmas are where Frankel shines ... moments startle, and yet the book feels a little too close to home, a little too, well, safe. Frankel places Poppy in a thoroughly empathetic and loving family, the kind that picks up and moves to Seattle the minute they encounter a whiff of homophobia in their town ... The last third of the book is more satisfying for being unpredictable, and dangling the possibility that Poppy is going through something as radical and disruptive, even as dangerous, as it seems.
PositiveThe Washington PostWhat propels the narrative is the protagonist at the center of it. This is not your heartwarming family reunion, when a newly enlightened parent comes to the airport with flowers and the child melts into her arms. Steven, now Stefanie, is difficult and unlovable on a Walter White scale ... Faludi rips at her father’s new identity in a way that sometimes feels almost cruel, in the way that a reporter’s relentless pursuit of truth sometimes can. But perhaps Faludi has earned the right ... rarely think this, but I wish this book had more digressions. Faludi starts a broader counter-narrative about identity that she never quite completes. And very few writers can dissect a prevailing cultural norm as well as Faludi can. But in memoir form, she gets across her basic point: Identity is not what you read about in the media. Not every operation ends in a fairy tale, your “real self” is not one you can fully choose, and no, you can’t tell a feminist by her father.