PositiveThe New Republic... offers the \'soul-swaddling feeling of sharing intensely personal experiences with others—which can be its own strange type of sweetness ... The tone of the book, too, is emptied, the prose scraped clean of adornment. Mira in no way resembles the spiny, venomous scorpionfish of the title; her voice lies flat, as if attempting to avoid detection .... The novel is thick with the memory of missing people, which creates a kind of ghost landscape alongside the physical terrain of the city ... the novel still allows for close, quiet moments of happiness and human connection.
PositiveThe New RepublicWithin the rigid perimeters of these poems, Chang discusses the way grief robs us of form ... Whereas time undergoes fundamental changes, Chang points to how language simply collapses under the weight of this new world ... But for all the failures of language, Chang’s employment of it is beautiful and resonant ... Obit, independent of whether Chang feels she has \'successfully\' described how it feels to grieve, ultimately provides nourishment[.]
PositiveVol 1. BrooklynOne of the most striking qualities of Tolentino’s essays is her intense self-awareness. She’s able to sharply cut through entire structural systems, expose their self-deluded shortcomings, and then point to her own complicity within them ... These moments are refreshing; Tolentino isn’t afraid to self-criticize, which stands in stark contrast to the online virtue-signaling she writes about in her essay on the internet. Tolentino doesn’t just use her self-awareness to critique herself, however. She uses it to examine and unpack her behavior and her beliefs, giving the reader the impression that Tolentino understands herself to an intense degree ... Tolentino is at her best when she’s dealing with the messy, when it feels like her ideas are developing on the page, when her convictions haven’t yet been solidified—and maybe never will be ... I’m grateful for Tolentino’s writing, her honesty, and her comfort with complication. Her message is simple, but infinitely important: not everything can be explained cleanly, and that’s okay.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksHumor and the grotesque saturate the novel, stewing the reader in a humid sense of fun — a feeling that anyone who has been to Florida can relate to ... [Arnett] discusses intense emotions and complicated themes through the venue of the quotidian. Taxidermy becomes a vehicle to illuminate a character’s psychology ... Most of the novel is about Jessa dealing — or not dealing — with her own \'obliterated system.\' Predictably, therefore, the arc towards the close of Mostly Dead Things follows Jessa as she ‘comes back to life’ and attempts to move on from the past. The story’s resolution centers around a loosening: family members finally finding the words to have frank conversations about the secrets that they’ve kept for years...These moments of atonement feel slightly out of place in a novel that has reveled in the messy, the sticky, and the complex. Unlike the rest of Mostly Dead Things the ending washes the sheets, makes the bed, and smooths down the comforter before leaving the room. Even though there is something unrealistically clean or perfunctorily “Hollywood” about the close of the novel, it is summer, and summer is the season for the blockbuster, the season for the cliches that we all secretly delight in — and Arnett’s story is definitely something to delight in.