RaveBookPageStrange...beautiful ... Zhang’s sentences are visceral and heated. She writes about food and bodies with frenzied truthfulness. There is nothing pretty in this novel, but there is outrageous beauty ... Casts the kind of spell that readers can spend a lifetime hungering for. To read this book is to know yourself as a being made of skin and touch, a being made of other bodies. The impact is powerful and immediate. This is an astonishingly accomplished work, a deceptively simple dystopian vision that lays bare the heartbreaking complexities of seeking and giving pleasure, of wanting and loving in a world that is fundamentally shattered and forever shattering anew.
RaveBookPageA funny, sharp, subversive marvel: a queer Western that feels both fresh and timeless. With gunfights, gambling, mysterious strangers riding into town, criminal gangs and highway robbery, it has all the trappings of a classic Western. The plot takes off about two-thirds of the way through, and it delivers plenty of heart-pumping action and adventure ... A complicated and moving portrait of a young queer woman determined to take up space in a world trying to render her invisible.
PositiveBookPageThrough an unusual structure that bucks narrative convention, Cypher explores the blurry lines between storytelling and history, memory and identity, exile and home ... Though Betty narrates the novel in the first person, she often feels like a peripheral character ... An intriguing debut.
PositiveBookPageWith biting humor, a sharp eye for the weird details that define places and relationships, a delightful sense of play and a lot of heart, he examines the intersecting lives of a group of mostly queer and Latinx New York City residents ... One of Varela’s many strengths is the way he uses humor to cut through all the static and get to the heart of a character or situation. He seems to have an endless supply of this humor, which can be dry and witty, bleak and a little sad, or biting and satirical.
RaveBookPageA feat of technical brilliance ... Though the novel’s world building lacks a critical engagement with race, which Lacey only mentions in passing, and though it sometimes feels more like a stylized thought experiment than a book with a beating, human heart, Biography of X is still a stunning achievement. It is nearly impossible not to get lost in Lacey’s exquisitely detailed version of America. Nothing about it feels fictional ... A dazzling literary chimera, at once an epic and chilling alternate history of the United States and an intimate portrait of a woman coming apart at the seams.
PositiveBookPageThere is little drama or fanfare in these stories. Instead, Moeng explores intrapersonal dilemmas and cultural changes by writing about the seemingly banal. In straightforward but elegant prose, full of sensory details, she homes in on scenes of ordinary intimacy ... In particular, Moeng beautifully captures the varied textures of marital relationships ... Quiet but powerful, Call and Response illuminates the complexities of a place and the characters who live there. Most of all, it’s about the messy striving and seeking we all do as we move from childhood into adulthood.
RaveBookPageMarisa Crane’s debut novel is a remarkable feat of speculative fiction, its premise so strangely familiar that to call it speculative feels like a misnomer ... An assured and surprising ode to queer family. It’s an untame story about motherhood and survival and the quiet, daily work of building a livable world. It’s about what humans can bear and what we can get used to, about the choices we make and that are made for us, about the worst things we do to each other and the most astonishing.
Kevin Chen tr. Darryl Sterk
PositiveBookPage... a rich and layered reading experience ... It’s a dramatic setup, but the first two-thirds of Ghost Town are deliciously slow, lingering in the details and inviting readers into the characters’ internal lives ... The final third contains the kind of grand revelations that can sometimes feel overwrought, especially after such a slow, meandering journey through memory and loss. But Chen sets it up masterfully enough that, instead, the ending feels inevitable ... full of gauzy prose and dark imagery. Darryl Sterk’s translation has a dreamlike quality, and it’s clear how much care he took to render the nuances of the original Taiwanese into English. This isn’t an easy read, but like a ghost, it lingers.
RaveBookPageExtraordinary ... A slim, sparse book with a breathtaking structure, a genre-defying blend of fiction, critical theory and oral history that holds seemingly endless layers of stories ... It’s hard to describe just how moving and unusual this novel is. It is intensely interior, sometimes dizzyingly so. The narrator is a scholar who constantly analyzes his own experiences, philosophizing and interrogating, but he’s painfully aware of the limits of academic thought ... Belcourt crafts sentences like only a poet can, each one precise and shimmering. He writes with ferocious intensity and beauty ... A feat of technical brilliance, a novel that questions the worth of writing even as it asserts its own value. It is a slippery, scholarly work, rooted in the layered complexity of Indigenous life.
RaveBookPageBeaton...demonstrates her remarkable range and storytelling prowess with her debut graphic memoir, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands. With strong prose and striking art, she captures the complexities of a place often defined by stark binaries: the Alberta oil sands ... Beaton honors the humanity of the oil workers. She illuminates the larger contexts of work camps ... She puts everything, good and bad, into the book ... Her talent for drawing people, and especially facial expressions, adds layers of emotional depth to every scene ... A powerful account of the ongoing harm of patriarchal violence, and an equally powerful testament to what is possible when we pay attention, seek out each other’s humanity and honor the hard truths alongside the beautiful.
PositiveBookPageA beguiling, meandering story that unfolds in dense and dizzying prose. Though challenging at times, Sacrificio is an invitation to slow down and pay attention. The rewards are plentiful for readers willing to give themselves over to a narrative that twists through Havana’s streets, churches, hotels, backyard restaurants and many secrets ... That’s a lot of plot, but it’s only the beginning, as Sacrificio is Dickensian in both scope and feel. Observant Rafa narrates in the first person, but he is long-winded and unreliable, often drifting into discursive stories told to him by others ... Sacrificio is a reminder that other kinds of books are worthwhile as well: slow stories, disorienting yet compelling books that require work, old-school dramas that nevertheless speak to the fraught complexities of our current political reality.
Sarah Thankam Mathews
RaveBookPagePerhaps it\'s too soon to say which books we\'ll look back on in 50 years as the ones that defined a generation, but Sarah Thankam Mathews\' debut, a close-to-perfect coming-of-age romp, is surely a contender. Bitingly funny and sweetly earnest, it\'s one of those rare novels that feels just like life, its characters so specific in their desires and experiences that you\'re sure you\'ve met them—or maybe you\'re about to ... In the manner of books that stay with you forever, All This Could Be Different is a singular story that extends beyond itself ... Lives are made up of so many ordinary moments, so many conflicting emotions, so many messes—some world-shattering, some mundane. It\'s all here in this funny, vibrant, heartbreaking book.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
RaveBookPageIt unfurls in one long stream of messy, painful, big Black girlhood, and this intense interiority gives the novel a breathless, almost unbearable momentum ... Though Sullivan writes every character, even minor ones, with seemingly effortless depth, Big Girl stays relentlessly focused on its protagonist, Malaya ... In the hands of a less talented writer, this closeness could slip into tedium. Sullivan turns it into something miraculous ... Big Girl is also full of moments of tenderness, joy and even hilarity, especially in the scenes between Malaya and her father, and in her relationship with her best friend, Shaniece ... Sullivan\'s novel is expansive and exuberant, loud and fierce, a celebratory, redemptive coming-of-age story.
PositiveBookPageAlthough each of the 12 linked tales in Morgan Talty\'s debut collection captures a particular moment, relationship or experience, together they give Night of the Living Rez the heft, movement and complexity of a novel ... There is so much beauty in these stories, but also heaviness ... What\'s most remarkable about the collection is the way Talty carefully guides readers to the book\'s climax. Each story reveals something new about David; small details from one story become life-changing events in another. In this way, the stories in Night of the Living Rez build on themselves the way a life builds: messily, unpredictably, with love and heartache and never quite in the way you expect.
PositiveBookPageBeautifully strange ... At first it seems to be a relatively straightforward intergenerational saga about a Korean family in Hawaii, but soon the inventiveness of Han’s storytelling becomes apparent, and readers are submerged in a world where nothing is quite as it seems ... Han tells a moving and specific story about more symbolic possessions ... Darkly funny, delightfully surprising and with a sprinkling of unusual formatting that reveals hidden subplots, Han’s debut bears witness to the brutal realities of war and imperialism while honoring the many kinds of magic that exist in the world.
RaveBookPageLongtime fans of Nina LaCour’s teen novels will be enchanted by the quietly powerful Yerba Buena, her first book for adult readers. It unfolds without any fanfare through a series of intimate and brilliantly observed details about growing up and into yourself. From one seemingly ordinary scene to the next, the relentless momentum of our imperfect, chaotic lives pulses through LaCour’s prose ... not a simple romance. It’s a layered story about the process of learning to love yourself, of holding onto and letting go of painful history, and of building your own home. Along the way, LaCour captures all the aches and hurts and betrayals and sensual delights of being in your 20s ... LaCour’s prose has a soft, flowing quality and a lushness that readers of her previous books will recognize. She’s adept at describing the things that matter most to her protagonists...Sara and Emilie are such fully realized characters that by the end of the novel, you will feel as though you’ve spent time with cherished friends ... Bursting with emotionally resonant moments and vivid details of LA neighborhoods, Yerba Buena is a remarkable story of queer love and childhood trauma, addiction and forgiveness, family legacies and new beginnings.
RaveBookPageAt its heart, Vauhini Vara’s twisty, thoughtful debut novel, The Immortal King Rao, is a fascinating alternate history and eerily plausible imagined future of the internet—and the tech corporations that have shaped it. With a sureness to her prose and a sharp eye for the tiny details that shape human lives, Vara combines three distinct storylines into a genre-bending, kaleidoscopic spiral of a tale ... an intimate character study, offering an unflinching, close-up look at the complicated bonds of families ... There are no simple relationships in this book, and few moral absolutes ... Satirical and heartbreaking, packed with historical detail and flawless dystopian world building, The Immortal King Rao is a striking multigenerational epic that tackles—and offers a surprising answer to—that age-old question: What are we here for?
RaveBookPage... a remarkable book that is many things at once: a primer on Deaf history, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a riotous political awakening, a family saga and a richly layered character study ... Though written in English, the book is bursting with ASL, offering an exploration into the power of language and the violence of language deprivation, the beauty of free and open communication, and the possibilities (and limitations) of translation. Throughout the novel, signed conversations are translated into English, each chapter heading is an illustration of a character’s name sign, the first signed letter of their name. Interspersed among the chapters are school assignments and other ephemera that detail ASL lessons and exercises ... The narrative moves in and out of the three main characters’ points of view, offering intimate glimpses into their inner lives. The novel’s sense of emotion builds slowly, from Austin’s intensifying anger and February’s growing desperation to Charlie’s burgeoning confidence. By the end of the book, each character is changed, and their transformations are explored with a beautifully subtle touch ... Deaf rights activist Nović incorporates so many issues that affect the Deaf community, including education inequality and the rise of cochlear implants. Though it focuses on three central characters, the story feels symphonic as the entire River Valley community comes to life. At times somber, often bitingly funny, awash in playfulness and fiercely proud, True Biz is a masterfully crafted love letter to Deaf culture.
RaveBookPage... a quiet and startling masterpiece about memory, aging and the indelible experiences that define a life. The slim novel reads like a much longer one, its mere 192 pages giving rise to the possibility of infinite stories. The effortlessly musical prose will be familiar to readers of Otsuka’s previous novels, especially her 2011 bestseller, The Buddha in the Attic. But The Swimmers is even more structurally bold ... seems to continually reinvent itself as each section reframes everything that came before it. Reading something so inventive and playful is a bit like being inside an architectural blueprint as it’s being drawn, or watching an acorn grow into a massive oak in only a few minutes. This is not a simple, orderly, linear novel. It unfolds in a messy chorus of contradictory, unpredictable voices that each bring something different to the whole ... With nuance, grace and deep tenderness, Otsuka ponders the questions that define our lives: Who are we without our memories? What does it mean to truly see someone else, to see ourselves? What is knowable about the world, and what do we do with the mysteries no one can solve? Funny, moving and composed of sentences that read like small poems, The Swimmers is a remarkable novel from a writer with an unparalleled talent for capturing the stuff of the world, whether mundane, harrowing or bizarre.
Destiny O. Birdsong
RaveBookPage... a masterfully crafted and sometimes painfully honest story ... This unusual novel is built on spaciousness and silence, with each section reading almost like a novella ... These are dynamic characters, each with her own distinct narrative voice and particular way of looking at the world ... Each section is bound to the others through themes of Black womanhood, familial expectations, grief and the power of self-determination, but instead of drawing straightforward conclusions about these connections, Birdsong leaves the reader to meditate on the questions and ideas she raises ... Buried in these pages are infinite conversations—about what it means to be labeled \'other,\' to be a part of a community, to choose something for yourself ... worth reading simply to spend time with these women, but the thoughtful and unexpected way that Birdsong combines their three unique stories into one is what makes the book unforgettable.
RaveBookPageNeel Patel’s gorgeous debut novel flows so seamlessly that you hardly notice you’re reading it; it feels more like you’re simply existing with his characters ... An emotionally layered family saga about cultural identity, first love, grief and the power of second chances, it’s a painful, funny and ultimately redemptive story ... Both Akash and Renu narrate in the second person ... It’s an elegant narrative device that never feels cliched or contrived ... This is a rich story that’s as vivid and surprising as its characters ... Renu is observant, bitingly funny and deeply caring. Akash is morose and impulsive; his pain often feels claustrophobic, while his love of music comes across as buoyant and joyful ... Tell Me How to Be is a contemporary family story that captures all the contradictions and challenges of 21st-century life. It’s a rare treat to watch Renu and Akash navigate such tumultuous change—and come out stronger on the other side.
RaveBookPageThe Wrong End of the Telescope...is as complex and multifaceted as its narrator. The story is a shape-shifting kaleidoscope, a collection of moments—funny, devastating, absurd—that bear witness to the violence of war and displacement without sensationalizing it ... This is not a novel about transformation. Its strength lies in its slipperiness, its thoughtful engagement with the messy in-betweens and the harsh but revelatory realities of liminality ... Mina, her fellow volunteers and the refugees they meet are all seeking something ... The Wrong End of the Telescope is a gorgeously written, darkly funny and refreshingly queer witness to that seeking.
RaveBookPage... worth the wait. Dizzying and deliciously weird, it’s a sprawling yet intimate story about music, hidden trans histories and the transformative act of creation ... This is no ordinary epistolary novel. Thornton discards convention, choosing instead to use the form to explore the possibilities of cross-generational queer and trans conversations. Gala’s letters act as a kind of portal, a manifestation of trans magic...The unique epistolary format makes space for deep connections, not only between Gala and B but also between Gala and the reader. It is impossible not to read these heartfelt missives without becoming wholly invested in her world ... Thornton’s plotting is masterful, her prose elegant and her characterization nuanced. But it’s the emotional heft of Gala’s narrative voice that sets this novel apart ... unpredictable and delightful, structurally innovative and epic in scope. It’s a heartbreaking yet hopeful addition to the growing canon of literature that celebrates the complexity of trans lives.