PositiveLibrary Journal... a work of careful, exquisite precision ... The collection’s organizing principle can feel a bit injudicious at times, with some poems easily bleeding into the next while others feel like slamming into a wall, but the potency of Codjoe’s language and keenness of her thematic renderings never fails to enthrall. Fiercely intelligent and both emotionally and formally rich.
RaveLibrary JournalHe’s produced perhaps his most emotionally nuanced and profoundly empathetic novel yet ... Wilson meaningfully crafts formed characters, allowing his work to register as a universal document of teenage turmoil as blessedly compassionate as it is cunning ... Highly recommended as a sincere, sometimes brutal, but always sturdy study of the burden of both art and adolescence and a wonderfully evocative treatise on how we imprint ourselves on the world and learn to survive in that tumultuous wake.
RaveLibrary JournalMillet slips among various modes and genres, blends the commonplace and the conceptual with ease, and there’s an undeniable disposition to her novels that links them in spirit if not always in substance ... The author’s best trick is leveraging expectations in order to build tension, only to reveal that the narrative’s primary currency isn’t its littered symbolism but its profound sense of human intimacy. It’s about those who enter and exit our orbits, and Millet elegantly shapes the swirling chaos of existence into fragile, memorable human forms ... More tender and less mercurial than anything Lydia Millet has written before, this is an elegant, subtle novel of profound emotional heft and deceptively simple prose of immense power, ending on a grace note that marks a high point in the author’s career.
RaveLibrary JournalAnother imaginative pivot for the formally adventurous author ... The narrative proves to be both markedly intelligent and surprisingly empathetic ... Hamid bespeaks compassion rather than anger or malignant consequence, eschewing grand worldbuilding for a deeply intimate and remarkably gentle tale. A certain slightness to the text keeps it from reaching the brilliant heights of Exit West, but Hamid maximizes his spartan framework emotionally and discursively, delivering a novel that lingers and expands long after its final, delicate pages ... A provocative and welcomingly unpredictable work, taking readers to deeply humane places and through moving considerations that similar works rarely visit.
RaveLibrary JournalThe strength of Hokeah’s work—across his entire cast of characters, but particularly with Ever—is his accomplished use of peripheral narration; each chapter features a new narrator, all of whom move through the other chapters as well, which results in a novel that builds in richness and intricacy as its forges ahead. It’s an expansive, mutating canvas Hokeah brings to bear, one that continues to grow until the final page, with myths small and large swirling amid familial and cultural histories. Inevitably, there’s some variance in quality between chapters, some feeling more like connective tissue than fully substantive in their own right, but Hokeah’s skill as a storyteller and eye toward exploring the intersections of various peoples, cultures, and histories cast him as a writer to follow ... Noteworthy.
RaveLibrary JournalGenre-defying ... Khalid’s vision can be bleak, even cynical, but it’s also remarkably cogent and underscored with a profound tenderness. It’s a love story...wrapped inside a searing indictment, a rage against the many machines that would sacrifice people at the altar of capital. That Khalid executes a novel this intricate, elegant, and compassionate with such masterly prose all but guarantees that this will be one of the finest works of literature this year ... Blisteringly intelligent, bursting with profound feeling, and host to some of the most complex, necessary characters in recent memory.
RaveLibrary JournalWhat’s so impressive in this story collection—and ultimately what imbues the work with such poignancy—is Talty’s restraint, his refusal to opt for sensationalism over authenticity. There’s a graceful interplay between his stories here, with portraits of pronounced family tragedy bleeding beautifully into those of gentle childhood hijinks. Talty understands each life as a small mythology, a grand accumulation of minutiae, and brings depth and nuance to each of these stories. The result is a work that builds in power across its pages, its woven narrative tapestry becoming richer and more robust with each successive story ... Talty’s debut story collection is a wonderfully understated work with sneaky emotional force, anchored by a memorable main character and the author’s keen understanding of childhoods that have been marked by instability.
RaveLibrary JournalMoshfegh has always been keenly interested in a certain ugliness of humanity, and her latest work takes that preoccupation to its most literal ends yet ... The work more squarely falls within the realm of fabulism, with period-specific magical realism flourishing the narrative. The author’s familiar, acidic probing of peculiar psychologies remains largely in place, but here such grotesqueries are not only interior but exterior ... The novel’s success lies in never explicitly committing to either blunt metaphor or cheap cock-and-bull storytelling, instead allowing Moshfegh’s facility with trenchant character development to remain at the fore ... At once immensely alien and deeply human, Moshfegh’s latest is a brutal, inventive novel about the ways that stories and the act of storytelling shape us and articulate our world.
RaveLibrary JournalMuch of the discussion around Mottley’s first novel is sure to focus on the author’s age—17 when she began writing, currently attending college—but this is a forceful work even outside of this remarkable context ... It’s a work of devastating social realism but cut through with a strain of pulp fiction...and it’s executed with relentless momentum, built of purely dramatic moments and steeped in emotions that are wrung from characters as if they were wet rags. As a result, there’s a certain melodramatic texture, and the construction of narrative incident can sometimes feel a bit inelegant. But it’s held together by Mottley’s singular voice, rife with frequent poetic flourishes and almost impatient with energy ... Undeniably bleak but littered with small beauties and a powerful discourse on the dehumanizing effects policing can have on marginalized communities, bodies, and minds (and especially on Black women). Mottley’s novel understands that sometimes a happy ending just means surviving.
RaveLibrary JournalPresenting a genuinely fresh take on the vampire mythos is an exceedingly difficult task in a post-Twilight world of bloodsucker rehash, not to mention enduring classic representation, but that’s precisely what Kohda manages in her debut novel ... Lydia lives at the nexus of several different worlds. But while such a synopsis might suggest a work primed for melodrama, Kohda instead executes her narrative with practiced restraint reflective of her protagonist’s own reticence in navigating a new existence. Indeed, Lydia’s circumstance is never handled sensationally but rather mined for its mundanity ... Kohda likewise smartly resists pat analogy, allowing vampirism to become more a texture to Lydia’s growing pains than a guiding metaphor ... This loose, even defiant approach to narrative expectations can leave the novel feeling a bit slight, but that’s a minor quibble. More books, vampire-themed or otherwise, could stand to feel this intimate ... A delicate, consistently surprising riff on the vampire narrative, and a stealthy, subversive story of one young woman’s declaration of self.
RaveLibrary Journal... a work that seeks to tease beauty from violence, to find life in pain. Indeed, these intentional contradictions have proved lodestars in Vuong’s work, but here he feels scraped rawer than ever, easily sliding between playfulness and acidity, his language both elliptical and meticulous ... Enriching Vuong’s already sterling early career, this new collection feels abraded by both the weight of loss and of living, yet is cut with a profusion of affecting beauty and humor.
Emily St. John Mandel
PositiveLibrary JournalInitially taking on an unsettled shape of a mystery replete with myriad narrative ellipses, the narrative eventually slows its pace to fill in its early narrative shading settling into the perspective of Gaspery-Jacques Roberts ... While its littered enigmas and savvy narrative structure make for effortless reading, both the worldbuilding and Roberts are given short shrift ... A distinctly slight work from Mandel, one that is very much enjoyable on its own terms and nails its tonal progression but has too soft a center to hold up to much scrutiny.
RaveLibrary JournalEgan returns to the interlocking narrative structure of A Visit from the Goon Squad, once again embracing the distilled power of short fiction in individual chapters while subtly allowing the distinct, imaginative parts to crescendo into a sterling sum ... This work is a more straightforward narrative, albeit rendered wonderfully kaleidoscopic ... But nothing here is about mere showmanship; everything is both imaginative and utilitarian, including its shape-shifting style, which regularly jumps between tenses, distinctive voices, and even forms ... The result is something of a mosaic, each meticulously rendered chapter feeling nested within the others rather than simply lashed together ... A forceful, wonderfully fragmented novel of a terrifyingly possible future, as intellectually rigorous as it is formally impressive, and yet another monumental work from Egan.
RaveLibrary Journal... as vividly as this novel recalls a dreamlike near-past, it’s reductive to think of it only as pandemic portraiture. The pandemic is more like set dressing for Shteyngart’s usual humanism; his concerns widen to encompass the menace of technology and the ill feeling so often rooted in enduring relationships, romantic or platonic. COVID-19’s most essential role here is as symbol: of division, of isolation, of fear, of living in modern America, but also of overcoming, persisting, surviving ... Both the definitive COVID-19 novel and not, this work captures an uncertain modernity and speaks to the existential peril of contemporary life.
PositiveLibrary JournalLight topicality follows this high-concept premise, including commentary on late capitalism’s internet-aided work/life imbalance and the fiction of modern communication, but it’s Kasulke’s execution rather than his ideas that recommends this work. The author masters mood, inflecting his comedic core with bits of surreal horror, and demonstrates a keen ear for lingo, expressly humorous without ever forsaking authenticity. He likewise proves deft at depicting the particular rhythms of group chats, with all communication here existing within a haze of disruption. Admittedly, this comes at the expense of any real characterization, which plays third fiddle to the novel’s formal playfulness and puckish conceit, but if the novel never rises above a trifle, it’s at least a delicious one ... Existing in the slipstream of humanity’s and technology’s mutual march forward, this is a welcome if lightweight oddity that cuttingly observes the horror and humor of the modern condition.
PositiveLibrary Journal... in many ways Kitamura emulates the tenor of any number of best-selling thrillers—peripheral characters are suspect, motivations are occluded, etc.—but her spare prose and refusal to ever offer summary conclusions keeps things all the more mysterious. Various narrative threads are woven, but they never web into any settled understanding; the author’s tilt toward the existential peril of unknowing is fundamental to her sense of story ... Few things are more intimate (and terrifying) than the act of being in the world, and Kitamura’s evocative interrogation of our ability to know ourselves and others is reinforced by the strength of her spare, haunting prose.
MixedLibrary Journal... a heady, metaphor-rich mash-up of fairy tale–fantasy, cli-fi, and postapocalyptic fiction ... While Bell’s writing remains rich and surprising, too much feels derivative of similar works, and the twined threads are unequally successful and fail to pull together with much punch ... Loaded with ideas and often poignant in its ruminations, but also languorous and merely expository; there’s certainly no denying Bell’s ambition, but this work simply fails to take root.
RaveLibrary JournalThe book is impeccably structured ... it\'s Kelly\'s masterly balance of tone—as she shuttles her attention between such disparate traumas as sexual predation and the moment when two lovers\' bodies no longer seem to fit together—that will linger longest, resulting in moments of gentle, heartbreaking melancholy ... Kelly\'s second effort feels scraped raw, seeking to understand humanity in primal terms in the same way as her debut, but here building to even grander emotional and linguistic crescendo.