Set in a dystopian future in Japan, a healthy elderly generation cares for the youth who face the devastating effects of growing up in a contaminated world. The quiet, ordinary relationship between a grandfather and grandson we follow in this novel shows moments of tenderness and beauty amongst the horror of this world. Whimsical and quiet in tone, this slightly absurd piece of speculative fiction is endearingly human and hopeful.
-Reviewed by Madison
I LOVED this heartwarming story of lost and lonely souls finding family, community and peace in a small coastal community in Washington state. Tova, a 70 year old widow, is not only mourning the death of her husband but also her son. Tova works the night shift at the aquarium, where she bonds with the reluctant resident Marcellus, a Giant Pacific Octopus. Mysteries are solved, families found, and broken hearts are mended.
-Reviewed by Claudia
I laughed out loud throughout the entirety of this book. Gilda is an anxious and depressed atheist lesbian who happens upon a job as the receptionist for a Catholic church. Watching her play the part of a straight, devout Catholic as she inserts herself into a local murder mystery is hilarious. The turmoil of Gilda’s personal life makes this an equally emotional and endearing novel.
-Reviewed by Kate
Fragile mortals, fallen heroes, depraved gods, and a trail of women in their wake. Ariadne, Princess of Crete and sister to the Minotaur has a few things to say on sisterhood, Theseus, and the gods. Emboldened to action against her tyrannical father, she sets off a chain of events which are the stuff of myth and legend. But she is the teller of her own tale now, and she will command your attention.
-Reviewed by Elizabeth
This thoughtful collection of short stories centers on the inner lives of Laotian Canadian immigrants and their children. From worm harvesters to manicurists, Thammavongsa's characters expose the daily lives, family dynamics, messy feelings, and social hierarchies of those navigating a new and unfamiliar world. This quick read left me with images I won’t forget and a desperate hope that this author writes many more stories!
-Reviewed by Madison
A short but delightful story about a young boy, Miguel, and his found family. Miguel's uncle finds himself able to live in a billboard and leaves behind his loved ones in search of silence. This pushes Miguel to find his independence among the desires of those around him. Ferrante has excellent prose that had me wistful at times and laughing at others.
-Reviewed by Clement
Calista, a young Greek woman, finds herself meeting and working with an aging Billy Wilder as he works on Fedora, one of his last films. Coe creates a charming representation of film-making, with a lovable cast of characters from the era. This book gave me a deeper appreciation of Wilder’s filmography and had me looking up references every few pages. Great for film lovers.
-Reviewed by Clement
This semi-autobiographical book follows Brewster North, a man eternally grieving the suicide of his mother and avoiding the terrors of an unfulfilled life. As funny as it is saddening, and as concerning as it is comforting, Impossible Vacation gives a painfully intimate look into the addled mind of a man searching for meaning.
-Reviewed by Ella
This book is not for the faint of heart but great for anyone who wants to be a little disturbed. An epidemic of sudden blindness takes over a city and no one knows the cause or how to treat it. Those affected are locked in an empty asylum where they deal with fear, hunger, and violence and must find the strength to survive.
-Reviewed b Ella
In her debut, Bennett explores the complicated world of mothers and friendships. In a small town dedicated to the local church, two young women who are very different become close friends. Their friendship falls apart as they grow up, and as men around them try to control their lives. Bennett has crafted an intricate web of relationships and writes beautifully about femininity and the constructs of being a woman.
-Reviewed by Acy
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a deeply emotionally evocative novel of a young man navigating childhood and adolescence. Vuong brings to life all the intensity of those years in a beautiful and painful way. Vuong’s protagonist deals with complex familial relationships, cross-cultural experience, his sexuality, young love, and so much more. This is a very richly written and touching novel.
-Reviewed by Peter
Perestroika is a runaway racehorse that finds a home near the Eiffel Tower. Somehow she eludes the gaze of the thousands of people that pass by each day. A menagerie of animals and a small boy befriends her and help keep her safe and fed in this heartwarming tale of friendship. Smiley’s novel is like the best Disney film imaginable without being overly sentimental.
-Reviewed by Arsen
Written with the same attention to detail and masterful creation of character as his other novels, this is the story of one summer and a group of friends in Sag Harbor, New York. Finding themselves in a bubble of freedom and independence, Benji and his brother take over the town with their friends in an attempt to find place and status in the small enclave of a predominantly white town. With intense descriptions of the smell of waffle cones and holding on to a favorite brand of Coke, this book will make you nostalgic while also bringing you into a new world that you will not want to leave.
-Reviewed by Acy
An apocalyptic adventure that explores themes of capitalism, pandemics, and office culture. Beginning in New York City, a lethal illness begins to sweep the globe. When Candace is one of the few not to fall ill; she finds herself still tied to her desk, unable to abandon mundane office tasks. As she documents, through photography, the ghost town NYC has become she realizes she needs to find others who are immune to survive.
-Reviewed by Sam
What happens when a by the book caseworker meets a group of misfits? Absolute gold. I loved this whimsical tale of an orphanage on an island that homes magical youth. I highly recommend this book even if fantasy isn’t your go-to genre. This very British novel has so much heart, wisdom, and a happy ending that proves you can always find your family.
-Reviewed by Olivia
This undervalued Irish epic tells the story of Cú Chulainn, who must defend his home from the Connacht army led by warrior queen Medb, who’s greed to steal the prized Brown Bull of Ulster drives this dreadful conflict. Featuring powerful queens, piggish kings, fame-obsessed foster-brothers, and mysterious deities, this epic complicates the matter of honor, war, and violence, and how it may lead us to kill the one we love most.
-Reviewed by Travis
Waking up to witness his own funeral and finding only five people in attendance, death is not what Wallace Price expected. More surprises await him once he meets Hugo, tea shop owner and ferryman who helps people cross over into the afterlife. A story about grief, loss, and love, this quirky fantasy-romance invites you to reflect on what matters most in life.
-Reviewed by Jess
Wish You Were Here is the exact emotional ride you would expect of a story that takes place against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic. Fans of her work will thoroughly enjoy this book, delivered in Picoult's wonderfully readable voice. At times difficult to read due to the accurate mirror to real-life experience, at its core this is a story about resilience in difficult times and is ultimately an uplifting, hopeful story.
-Reviewed by Katie
Melancholic and unexpectedly moving. Darnielle’s lyrical prose is refreshing and makes this dark and twisting story unforgettable. Revolving around an unusual hero and the role-playing game he created, this story reminds us of the decisions we make each day, and how those map the course of our lives. I loved how this book unfolded as if the story itself was a role-playing game, mirroring the choices of the characters.
-Reviewed by Madison