Kelly Link tends to inspire a range of comparisons to other authors—usually, some blend of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami—but, in fact, nobody writes stories like hers. Link’s fantastical worlds feel utterly real, partly because they’re intensely matter-of-fact. Her characters are sassy, moody and cool, and they never, ever make any big deal out of the fact that there are monsters, aliens, vampires or ghosts hanging around, or that they might stumble into a pocket universe or some alternate dimension. Mostly they’re concerned with cute guys and flirting and drinks, plus occasionally needing to save the world.
If you discover a magical world through some kind of portal, that’s one thing. Wardrobes and rabbit holes make it easy to believe you’ve left the real world behind. But what if you live in a normal house with normal-enough parents and attend school with other normal kids, and something starts to change, to twist even as you go about your daily life? That would be a bit harder to accept.
When young Ursula Brown reaches the estate of the Vaughns (who are also recognizable as the Three Bears) to be a governess for their son, Teddy, her story becomes less a simple fairy-tale retelling and more of a mash-up of classic literary tropes.
African-American twins Maya and Nikki and their neighbor Essence have always had their lives completely planned. They’ll date the right boys, attend historically black all-female Spelman College and be best friends forever.
Young Elmore Green’s life seems perfect and orderly until one day when “somebody else came along,” and that someone happens to be The New Small Person. This new creature, whom Elmore refers to as “it,” squawks during Elmore’s favorite cartoons and once “actually licked Elmore’s jelly-bean collection, including the orange ones.”
Three months after her friend Sarah dies, Iris Abernathy and her parents move from sunny California to an old farmhouse in rainy Oregon, where the miserable weather suits Iris’ mood. While Iris’ mother is adjusting well to her new job at a university and her father has taken to gardening and raising chickens, Iris can’t move past her grief. She believes Sarah is a ghost living in her new house.
Finding the Worm is Mark Goldblatt’s second book about Julian Twerski and his 34th Avenue gang, based on the author’s childhood experiences in Queens, New York. The sequel to Twerp continues with language that is simple and accessible but packs a punch, especially when dealing with the sensitive topic of cancer.
Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, has its fair share of glamorous and not-so-glamorous stories. M.O. Walsh, author of My Sunshine Away, grew up there, so he captures these contradictions effortlessly in his stunning debut.
“It began with a death in the family. My Uncle Ed, the most debonair of the clan, a popular guest of the Gentile social clubs despite being Jewish, had succumbed at age ninety-five with a half glass of Johnnie Walker on his bedside table.”
Pre-Civil Rights Mississippi was a place where issues of race and class weighted down air already heavy with humidity. Jonathan Odell takes this complicated setting and throws two young mothers from widely different worlds together.