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Reviews of the Week, with Eli Lang, Akemi Dawn Bowan, Louise Erdrich, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and / or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from September 11 through September 15 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.

September 11

 Starfish, by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Half Japanese Kiko Himura is a recent high-school graduate whose art-school rejection leaves her with no means of escaping her toxic homelife. Her parents are divorced, and while her father happily lives with his new family, Kiko and her brothers live with their mother, a golden-haired, self-absorbed woman who belittles Kiko relentlessly. Socially awkward, Kiko is more than surprised when her closest childhood friend, Jamie, spots her at a party she didn’t want to attend. Jamie invites her to stay with his family in California to investigate art schools. Things begin to look up until tragedy strikes at home, and Kiko finally finds the courage and the voice to make important decisions that will guide her out of her shell and toward a fulfilling life. Bowman evokes Kiko’s quiet hurt, pain, and frustration with breathtaking clarity, all the while reinforcing the narrative with love and hope. This is a stunningly beautiful, highly nuanced debut.

 

September 12

Unbelievableby Katy Tur

NBC reporter Tur was the “road warrior” who followed Donald’s Trump campaign from beginning to end. In her introduction, Tur says about the Trump phenomenon, “I won’t try to explain. I will just tell you what I saw.” And this becomes frustratingly true, as the book goes on. There’s very little about policy issues, Hillary Clinton, even behind-the-scenes campaign backstabbing. What the book does well, however, is capture the blur of a campaign and the buffeting of journalists’ personal lives. Tucked within the well-trod territory is the book’s strongest element: the disturbing on-site reports of how deep the hatred ran at the rallies. A thin but very personal first draft of history.

 

 

September 13

 Skin hungerby Eli Lang

When we’re fearfully carrying a deep personal secret, we hide that part of us from others and, often, ourselves. Ava carries two, her clandestine love for her band mate, Tuck, who’s with another girl, and her hidden bisexuality. When a chance meeting with Cara sparks a connection, Ava’s long-dormant feelings surface, not for a hasty hookup but for something far more meaningful. Lang’s (Escaping Indigo, 2017) second meditative, absorbing, compelling, and universally relatable novel in her series about band members is, like other Riptide titles, more emotionally reverberating than many other LGBT or mainstream romances.

 

 

 

 

September 14

Future Home of the Living Godby Louise Erdrich

Cedar Hawk Songmaker, the adopted Native American daughter of two white “Minnesota liberals,” is secretly pregnant when she discovers that her birth name is Mary Potts. With this slash of wry cultural irony, Erdrich (LaRose, 2016) launches a breakout work of speculative fiction in which a sudden reversal of evolution is underway, threatening the future of humankind and life itself. In this feverish cautionary tale, Erdrich enters the realm of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Emily Schultz’s The Blondes (2015), and Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold, Fame, Citrus (2015), infusing her masterful, full-tilt dystopian novel with stinging insights into the endless repercussions of the Native American genocide, hijacked spirituality, and the ongoing war against women’s rights.

 

 

September 15

 Love, Hate, and Other Filtersby Samira Ahmed

Competing crushes verging on love, looming decisions about college, and a terrorist attack factor into Ahmed’s searing YA debut, a coming-of-age portrait of a contemporary Indian American Muslim teen, Maya Aziz. It’s spring of Maya’s senior year in Batavia, Illinois, as she weighs dually defying her parents: first, by eschewing their pick for her, Desi Kareem, in favor of Phil, the white football player she’s long crushed on. And second, by choosing to study filmmaking at NYU, where she secretly applied and was accepted, over the close-to-home University of Chicago. Maya is insightful, modern, and complex, her shoulders weighted by the expectations of her parents and the big dreams she holds for herself. Utterly readable, important, and timely.

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About the Author:

Enobong Essien is a fall/winter intern with 'Booklist'.

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