RaveLambda Literary...[a] fabulously and unflinchingly queer debut story collection ... Manning’s characters are as gorgeous and various as the community of which they are part, representing different identities, sexualities and experiences of queerness ... In this way, We Had No Rules both engages with and moves beyond the narrative constrictions of what we think \'queer fiction\' should be, instead pushing toward a limitless vision of queer storytelling that will capture readers with its vivacity ... In their sharp, surprising stories, Manning displays a willingness to defy expectations and take the reader to uncomfortable places ... Today’s readers will find the frank discussion of sex, money, relationships, and fluidity not just refreshing but deeply necessary. We need stories like these—stories that are willing to take risks, ask difficult questions, and reflect both our ugliest and most beautiful moments ... To that end, We Had No Rules does a remarkable job of representing a pretty broad swath of queer experiences and communities. It does, however, fail to explore race and ethnicity at any depth, and this is one area where the collection could have proven to be more expansive. In all other respects, We Had No Rules is an intimate, rebellious and often hilarious exploration of queer life in the U.S. in the 21st Century.
RaveLambda Literary... it’s a testament to Hassman’s skill as a writer that readers not only don’t find these mistakes frustrating but actually understand why Helen makes them. Throughout, her witty, irreverent, progressive voice and unique point of view propel readers to keep reading even when the subject matter proves difficult. Some readers might find the setting of Rosary, California, hard to stomach, and for good reason ... Had Hassman not chosen, at the end of the book, to push back against stricture and depict her characters defying the rules of Rosary, gods with a little g would be a much less hopeful (and successful) book ... the narrative concludes on an uplifting note that holds within it the seeds of change not just for Helen but for Rosary and for teenagers everywhere resisting oppression in ultra-religious communities. If there’s one bad note in the novel, it comes in the chapter titled \'Discipline,\' the narration of which is needlessly self-conscious to the point of being distracting. Otherwise, gods with a little g is a near-perfect novel.
PositiveLambda LiteraryThis theme of safety runs throughout the novel, which is divided into three parts of nearly equal length ... Barr’s structural choices are effective, if heavy-handed ... [Part Three] seems jam-packed to the point of overflowing. This is potent, gripping material. No doubt readers will want more of it. What keeps them turning the page, even as the novel lurches back and forth in time, is Barr’s use of diction and point of view. His sentences are nimble and adaptive ... Barr’s facility with language is on display here, and many readers will happily lose themselves in his supple prose.
PositiveKenyon ReviewRegardless of how familiar the reader is with these patterns going in, they will leave the essays with a deeper knowledge of the craft of fiction, as well as a heightened understanding of the natural rhythms and patterns of language itself. Oftentimes, reading Meander, Spiral, Explode feels like sitting in on the most demanding graduate seminar on narrative structure ever taught ... If there is one fault with this craft book, it is that it does not take into account the history of structural and formal experimentation found in works by women and writers of color ... In a book where the author calls the narrative arc \'masculo-sexual\' and pushes for alternative forms of storytelling, the choice to then privilege white male voices is a strange one ... As a craft book, however, Meander, Spiral, Explode still has a great deal to offer readers looking to improve their writing.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
PositiveThe RumpusDeath comes in various forms in The Refugees—some literal, some figurative, some solely bringing about the death of dreams that needed to die anyway ... None of the presumed or offstage deaths is quite as affecting as that of the narrator’s brother in 'Black-Eyed Women,' and nothing in The Refugees is half as gruesome as the scene where he’s murdered and the narrator is gang raped ... Perhaps the most important lesson of this story, and of The Refugees as a whole, is that you don’t have to live like a ghost.
RaveThe Millions...a meticulously researched and darkly humorous look at the science of modern warfare ... Roach’s writing [is] thrilling, accessible, and engrossing in the best possible ways. Roach has a unique ability to make the morbid funny ... Grunt shines a light on science that’s actively attempting to keep people alive. Perhaps for this reason, it feels less like a survey of new military science — much or most of which is surely classified — than it does a masterful work of nonfiction that intends to draw the reader’s attention away from the drone strikes reported in the mainstream media and, in so doing, change the national conversation about war ... Roach’s snappy writing style and impeccable comedic timing that make Grunt a must-read.