RaveThe A.V. Club... bold, mischievous, and brilliant ... While the foundations of the story might sound zany, The Athmospherians is a heady exploration of masculinity in crisis, the toxic nature of internet discourse, and the damaging pursuit of relevance over all else. There are moments when the plot borders on the delirious, but McElroy never loses the narrative thread or its foundations in the very real concerns of today. This is a book that almost demands to be read compulsively, so hard is it to fully relax in the new scenarios that come with each page. It is also side-splittingly funny and seductive in the way that a smooth-talking swindler or too-good-to-be-true social media starlet so often is ... One of the ways McElroy accomplishes this is through their precise use of language. The novel is infinitely quotable, providing an embarrassment of descriptive riches ... These insights are easily recognizable and therefore haunting. When reading about the dazed man-hordes that populate this novel’s world, it’s very easy to superimpose images from anti-mask protests and the storming of the Capitol ... Despite the hyperbolic nature of the situations that unfold, there is a very keen awareness of believable human behavior, especially that of our darkest impulses ... in its refusal to sugarcoat what drives the characters, it very effectively holds up an ugly mirror to the reader as well. Although McElroy probes and pokes fun at men’s most problematic behaviors, their protagonist is not a stand-in for a superior moral compass; Sasha is just as prone to dehumanizing the men as men have dehumanized her throughout her life. The most powerful message in The Athmospherians might be that when we turn others into monsters, we become monstrous ourselves ... With a set-up as delicious as The Atmospherians’, it’s a bit of a disappointment that there aren’t more depictions of the fraudulent workshops Sasha and Dyson concoct. It would have helped to both differentiate the men from each other and define what kind of transformations are taking place in the characters. Also, for anyone who suffers from emetophobia, the book should come with a massive warning sign ... it will be hard to deny that this is a novel you’ll mull over long after you’ve read the last sentence. You might even memorize its most biting quips.
PositiveThe AV ClubEach chapter could easily function as its own self-contained short story, but together they weave a delicate, unifying thread: to be a woman is to be in a permanent state of exile ... Garcia—herself the daughter of both Mexican and Cuban immigrants, but also a former migrant rights organizer—refuses to give an easy narrative about immigration. Here there are no uplifting stories about the American dream, no model minorities, no monolithic interpretations for a demographic that refuses easy categorizations. More pointedly, there are no mother martyrs, a figure that has been romanticized in debates surrounding immigration. What we get are complicated women who are forced to make complicated decisions, their children sometimes the sacrificial lambs of their own choices ... Garcia takes on big themes, but her approach to each of these timely issues is to aim for intimate moments as a way to illuminate the effect it has on individual lives. A poet by trade, Garcia loves to use an extended metaphor to explore the inner world of her characters, and she does so masterfully ... Garcia has a knack for providing pointed, often searing, sometimes humorous commentary on other hot-button topics like white privilege, the animosity within the Latinx community, and even the tense relationship between the prodigal Cuban Americans returning to the island and the family they left behind ... The power of these vignettes is such that it’s easy to forget all these disparate threads are supposed to amount to a unified whole. It’s perhaps for that reason that the main weakness of the novel is the underlying question of how these two separate families will become inextricably linked. Instead of driving the tension, it proves distracting, and by the time Ana’s and Jeanette’s fates meet again, it feels shoehorned—quite a contrast considering how most of the novel opts for quiet revelations. The ending feels rushed and with little breathing space to explore a resolution that could have been richer ... Also, for a novel that so fiercely traces the legacy that our mothers’ secrets leave behind, we rarely get fully fleshed-out relationships between the mother-daughter pairs that pepper the book ... The book may fall short of its ambitious scope, but what it does achieve, it achieves well. Insightful without being didactic and profound while remaining accessible, it reminds us of the various forces that push immigrant women to seek self-determination.
PositiveThe A.V. ClubSelf Care is the bitchy beach read for people who wear a \'Bitches Get Shit\' done T-shirt, but who are also well-versed in debates about reclaiming the word \'bitch.\' Stein is the kind of writer who would be at home both in The New Yorker and on a Tumblr page devoted to writing poems about The Bachelor. It’s no wonder she has crafted a book that is extremely readable, often laugh-out-loud funny, and loaded with pop culture references, internet lingo, Instagram hashtags, and every major and minor viral scandal of the early Trump years. This isn’t to say it’s pure fluff, though you’d be forgiven for thinking it, it’s such a quick read. At its core, it’s a very clever satire, sometimes a bit too smug, but with a deft hand behind it ... Khadijah is written earnestly from the get-go—a savvy move, given she is the one Black character in our trio of narrators ... On the other hand, this gingerly approach to her point of view means there is less of it as the story unfolds, and she ends up being somewhat drowned out by the other two, white narrators. It’s a solid attempt, but Khadijah’s presence in the book never fully transcends the white feminism™ it purports to ... The ending is unsettling and hints at a much darker subtext than the previous pages revealed. It’s as if Stein put on her own sunbathed filter, preferring to keep the tone bright through most of the book until the very shadowy finish, and one wishes it would have emerged earlier.
PositiveThe AV ClubBookworms, former English majors, and anyone tired of Old White Men novels will enjoy the blunt descriptions of petulant literary giants (John Updike), high-brow celebrities (Todd Solondz), and other behind-the-scenes figures (editor Rust Hills). Miller likes to emphasize her level-headed Midwestern sensibility and rarely presents events salaciously. She needn’t, as the awfulness is so explicit ... Miller doesn’t demonize Wallace by airing all his dirty laundry— and there are moments of tenderness here ... In these pages, [Miller] makes space for the respect she was too often denied, both in her professional and intimate life ... The author is, by her own account, very private, and as a result, the book doesn’t really take off until Wallace makes a more definitive appearance about 150 pages in and she shows more vulnerability. This may be the memoir’s most conflicting aspect. There is something unsettling about wanting to give due credit to her identity as separate from Wallace, but it’s hard when this is the most riveting part of the story ... if this memoir is about a woman coming into her own, it’s telling that the result is anger, and that such passages are the most powerful in the book ... Maybe the best way to fight Wallace-as-idol is by pointing out precisely how pedestrian his callousness was. Wallace’s death occupies only a few pages, but it is in her grief that Miller finally allows herself to put her anger into action.
PositiveThe A.V. ClubWiener shines when she turns her incisive observations on the many entitled men running amok in Silicon Valley ... an engaging summary of every terrible thing you’ve heard about start-ups ... One of the more insightful analyses Wiener makes is on the degradation of language that incubated in the open-office plans of app developers and has now spilled over into the outside world ... The uncanny valley of the title is a clever misnomer. We aren’t unsettled by computer-generated humanoids here but humans willingly transforming themselves into workaholic quasi-cyborgs ... Wiener is perceptive, inquisitive, and frankly too smart for so much of the bullshit described that it’s still hard to understand why she lasted so long. One wonders how she was so easily seduced. But then again, weren’t we all?
PositiveThe AV Club... the oddness of this genre-defying book fits in nicely with the path [Slate] has set out for herself as a performer ... A collection that relies so heavily on whimsy shouldn’t be this effective, but the emotions in it are so raw that delving into her words creates an intimate connection to the work ... What does permeate these pages is a lot of heartbreak ... This isn’t a collection that aims for wide appeal, and therein lies both its strength and its weakness. If it weren’t for Slate’s truly admirable writing chops, made more exuberant with her knack for fanciful descriptors, it could easily run the risk of coming off as precious ... a strange read, an odd look into personal pain, but an engrossing one—what we get are no little insights but a big chunk of heart.
PositiveThe A.V. Club... fits in nicely with Coates’ grander project of writing as a corrective exercise to the whitewashing of the nation’s historical memory ... Its greatest strength is how it functions as a counter-myth to the supposed romanticism of the Antebellum South that has so propagated mainstream culture. His world-building of the decadent Virginia plantations is impeccable and comes with its own unique vocabulary, as a way to shake us out of our own complacent understanding of the time period ... After a compelling beginning, the book flounders for several chapters before picking up steam again. The hero’s journey that may work well in Coates’ Black Panther graphic novels ends up feeling like a string of unnecessary delays here. As Hi tries to tap, control, and harness the power of Conduction, there are adventures, losses, triumphs, and setbacks for him and the ragtag team of abolitionists and freed men he meets. It’s the most cinematic aspect of the book, and therein lies its weakness. It treads along like a long, self-indulgent battle sequence in one of the numerous Avengers movies out there. The dialogue can come off as stilted and expository, and the prose is interrupted with theoretical analyses that are intoxicating to read in essays but come off as pontification in fiction. One wishes Coates’ incisive commentary and conceptual clarity would take a step back to allow his characters to be messy, inconsistent, and a tad less self-aware. In short, a bit more human than mythical ... Still, there is more to like than not in a novel that makes a strong case for confronting our individual and collective pasts as a way forward.
RaveThe AV/AUX ClubIf there is one thing that becomes abundantly clear after reading this deep investigation into R. Kelly’s horrific actions, it’s that it’s all too little, too late ... an infuriating, nauseating, and revelatory document of one man’s monstrous acts—and the society that allowed his monstrosity to go unchecked. If this book puts a spotlight on R. Kelly’s pathologies, it does so by condemning all the ways our systems of accountability have failed the girls of color who were under his sway ... often reads like a courtroom drama—except most courtroom dramas don’t let six years transpire between an indictment and the actual trial ... R. Kelly’s dirty secrets are revealed in this book, and so is the wide gap between true justice and the law ... Despite this bleak topography, there is something affirming about DeRogatis’ refusal to let the story go.
PositiveA.V. Club\"... The Other Americans reads like a multi-voice confessional that wouldn’t be out of place in one of the talk shows Maryam loves to watch—if those talk shows also exhibited Lalami’s sharp storytelling skills and precise language, of course ... The whodunit element of the novel is interesting enough, but it is evident from the get-go that this isn’t the mystery Lalami cares to explore. Even superficial fans of murder mysteries will easily guess the identity of the driver somewhere along the way. What’s more riveting are the secrets behind each narrator ... Although Lalami commands the attention of her readers with her expert pace and acute insights, she makes a few missteps. Efraín ends up being nothing more than a plot device ... A few dream sequences feel like amateur gestures for a writer who usually soars above such platitudes. And there were moments of what can only be described as forced political psychoanalysis ... Ultimately, the novel is engrossing.\
PositiveBookPage\"The memoir is a quiet book; its private tragedies are the consequence of a slow physical and emotional decay at the hands of her father’s disease. Still, Smyth’s prose pulsates with intensity, and its lyrical qualities make it a moving one. Grief and its disconcerting effects take center stage ... With her first book, Smyth is able to give that comfort to a new generation of readers as well.\
MixedA.V. Club\"While the book can be engaging and deliciously creepy at times, it’s also schematic in its diagnosis of human nature in the way that so many social media debates tend to be ... The unflinching depictions of physical cruelty as a reflection of the psychological harm we are willing to carry out on others is one of the collection’s greatest strengths ... These stories may leave readers squirming, sometimes with tension, often with revulsion, and Roupenian is extremely skilled at escalating the stakes ... The oversimplification of victim and victimizer in the other stories, though, is more tiring ... Roupenian eschews any sort of moral complexity by spelling out every problematic and downright creepy thought in the antagonists’ heads ... What we get, time and again, are more predictable outcomes, usually tainted with a degree of shock value, so readers can be absolved of any upsetting ambiguity by clearly knowing who deserved what and who is left to tend to their wounds. Roupenian raises difficult questions. One wishes her answers were just as challenging.\