Gayle Forman, whose previous books include If I Stay and Just One Day, specializes not only in three-word titles but also in novels that combine emotional intensity with moral complexity. I Was Here opens with a gut-wrenching wallop as Cody relates the suicide email she received from her best friend, Meg.
“When you stopped trying to be one perfect person, you could be many.” A small-town Tennessee girl flourishes into a classic, yet never cliché, femme fatale in Rebecca Scherm’s provocative coming-of-age debut, Unbecoming.
It’s easy to forget that by the time he was 41, F. Scott Fitzgerald was washed up. His books were out of print, magazines weren’t interested in his stories and his monthly royalties were down to pocket change. In 1937, he went to Hollywood, where he struggled to make a living writing screenplays, barely staying one step ahead of his creditors. It is these lean years that Stewart O’Nan examines in his brilliant biographical novel West of Sunset.
If the mark of a great author is not merely how much she incites the imaginations of readers but the extent to which she inspires fellow writers, then there can be no doubt that Jane Austen is the greatest author of them all. Just when you think the market for Austen spinoffs has reached capacity, a new book comes onto the scene that turns the genre on its head. Such is the case with First Impressions, Charlie Lovett’s delightful new novel.
“Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.” So says war correspondent Michael Herr on the persistent reality of a war curiously prone to re-examination. In The Lotus and the Storm, by Vietnamese-American author Lan Cao, this revisiting takes the form of a dialogue of sorts between a daughter and a father, lotuses swept to America’s shores by the storm of the American intervention.
Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House is an appealing mixture: part archival mystery, part ghost story, part historical novel, starring a house with as much personality as Manderley or Hill House. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place.
S.E. Grove’s debut novel is set in 1890s Boston, a place that anyone who has read history or historical fiction set in that era will recognize—or will they? This world shares geography with our own, but thanks to the Great Disruption, which happened almost a century earlier, the Earth’s regions became unmoored from time. Although New Occident (where Boston is located) lies firmly in the 19th century, other countries are in the Dark Ages, prehistory or even the future.
“Is it time?” asks Little Blue, who can’t wait to start the blue whales’ summer migration to their feeding ground. In this companion to Meet Me at the Moon, Gianna Marino’s tale of a mother elephant and her child, fathers now have their day.
Author Heather Brittain Bergstrom has won awards for her short fiction from the Chicago Tribune and Atlantic Monthly, among others. Her outstanding debut novel, Steal the North, is almost guaranteed to add to Bergstrom’s award collection. Narrated from multiple perspectives, the novel is a heartbreaking tale of family secrets, unrequited love and the unbreakable bond of family.
Twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes is locked up in a “school” for troubled children that is more like a jail with solitary lock-up and nothing but goop to eat. He’s been there for six years, living in drudgery, until one night when a flock of pigeons and a gathering of cockroaches insist he break out to save the last bit of wild.