PanThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteWhile Heroes of the Frontier fortunately isn’t quite as didactic as The Circle, it shares many of the same weaknesses: most critically, characters that seem animated more by Mr. Eggers’ need to push his theses rather than by any real life of their own, and a tendency to over-explain ... She never fully becomes more than a vehicle for social criticism, and that flatness makes much of Josie’s journey ring false — such as a scene, late in the novel, when she attempts to actually create a musical. Heroes of the Frontier’s best moments come when Mr. Eggers dials back Josie’s internal monologues enough to let us absorb ourselves in a scene.
PanThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteFrom the opening lines of Sweetbitter, it is clear that Stephanie Danler knows her craft. Both of her crafts, actually, because this debut novel relies as much on Ms. Danler’s knowledge of the New York restaurant world as it does on her ability to construct a sentence ... Ms. Danler’s commitment to aesthetics can’t mask Sweetbitter’s underlying weaknesses, perhaps because it is at its heart. Tess functions above all as a conduit for sensory experiences and an entry point into the world of the restaurant. The story, if anything, detracts ... because Sweetbitter is a series of impressions and uncertainties, whenever the story dips into cliche — as it especially tends to when it comes to Tess’ relationship with Jake — it’s hard not to doubt that there’s any substance to it at all ... It’s all too easy for stereotypes and cliches to dress up in beautiful prose and masquerade as a kind of insight.