PositiveThe Daily BeastRiggle’s weeklong odyssey avoids easy moral lessons or melodramatic decisions. His town’s rough landscape provides only small encounters and poignant revelations. He becomes heroic because any teenage choice is tough, so why not try to make the right ones ... Carr’s dialogue [is] realistic and pointed ... Some storylines in Opioid, Indiana do wrap up a bit too conveniently. The money problem resolves through a contrived twist. Several stream-of-consciousness passages will work for a few readers, not all. A few situations veer toward melodrama, probably because inspiration came from Carr’s imagination more than Carr’s true-life classroom recollections. That’s an unfair way to judge fiction—not being nonfiction enough—but it’s a risk when the real world’s an ingredient.
MixedThe Daily BeastThe story’s momentum comes from melodramatic sections ending with cliffhanger lines of grave import ... will sell many copies and moderately entertain thousands of readers, but there are better options for melodramatic escapism ... In 2019, King’s unstoppable creativity faces no restriction but mortality; his children are successful, his descendants secure; he is the system. The vision of The Institute’s cruelty can’t come from his own reality and it shows ... This is no argument that The Institute is a bad story, and certainly not that King is a bad writer...It is not a criticism to say that King in 2019 doesn’t write with the instinctive edge he felt in 1974 ... I still read The Institute cover to cover, as I’ve read all King’s books and stories. Granted, I felt no sense of \'leave the lights on\' dread, like from Pet Sematery in my youth. I never felt enraptured in anyone’s lives and fates, as I did with the survivors of The Stand ... So what if I finished unimpressed with The Institute’s derivative premise and one-dimensional characters? I finished ... You should read The Institute, but as education, not entertainment.
Ryan Leigh Dostie
PositiveThe Daily BeastIt is an unpleasant experience to read Dostie’s first-person account of her own violation ... It’s sickening and visceral ... Formation works very well, maintaining an aggressive, fast-paced momentum for most of its 300 pages. Dostie covers a large scope of her pre- and post-war experiences, as well as an unromantic view of military life, stateside and at war ... The book’s timed right for the #MeToo era, presenting what demeaning harassment and unpunished crimes look like from the woman’s point of view.
Omar El Akkad
MixedThe Rumpus...intense, imaginative, and tragic ... Akkad is occasionally heavy-handed, and the brutality of the 'Sugarloaf' detention center—his Guantanamo stand-in—is as subtle as a chainsaw ... Akkad’s worldbuilding has two flaws. First, fossil fuel is basically a Macguffin in that it doesn’t noticeably impact the story, but readers are expected to accept it was worth this second Civil War...Second, there is a lack of creativity in presenting the secessionists as the South, once again refusing to give up what they consider a vital part of their life ... Nevertheless, this intense novel takes recent foreign history and reimagines it happening to us in America, and it is successfully disconcerting. You learn something from a story that asks you to consider a dark, strangely-plausible abyss; you learn where your own loyalty has fallen away, like Akkad’s disappearing coastlines.