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Reviews of the Week, with Hillary Clinton, Samantha Mabry, Ross Raisin, 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 18 through September 22 so that you can revisit the week’s best books.

September 18

What Happened by Hillary Rodham ClintonWhat Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the top: Clinton takes personal responsibility for her loss in the 2016 presidential election—and she does so multiple times throughout this memoir, which proves to be much more than a political autopsy. As in her previous books, Clinton is eagle-eyed about her faults and clearly recognizes where her statements and actions worked against her. The headlines in the run-up to this book’s publication have been all about her beef with Bernie Sanders and the toll that FBI director James Comey’s unpredictable decisions took on her support, and, yes, there’s plenty of meat on those bones. Writing in her smart, sometimes self-deprecating voice, Clinton brings much-needed perspective to the election, especially for her millions of supporters, who also want to know what happened and why.

September 19

Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano Out of the Ordinary, by Jen Turano

It’s a colossal understatement to say that rich, elderly Mrs. Davenport is eccentric. Gertrude Cadwalader, an extraordinary young woman, serves as her companion, and whenever Mrs. Davenport has flashes of inspiration, poor Gertrude gets to be her guinea pig. Although Gertrude is neither wealthy or fashionable, Harrison Sinclair, one of the most eligible men in New York, has noticed her. Mrs. Davenport; Margaret, Harrison’s overbearing sister (and Mrs. Davenport’s latest target); and a society woman who will stop at nothing to gain Harrison’s affection provide lots of excitement in this fast-paced, festive, funny romance. Out of the Ordinary is the second book in Turano’s entertaining, faith-based Apart from the Crowd series, following Behind the Scenes (2017).

September 20

Vanilla by Billy Merrell Vanilla, by Billy Merrell

Hunter and Vanilla have been boyfriends since middle school, but, now that they are 17, their relationship has begun to fray. Ostensibly this is because Hunter is ready for sex, while Vanilla is not. Merrell’s first novel—in verse, of course, Merrell being an accomplished poet—is a sometimes melancholy exercise exploring the enigmatic face of love and its various meanings. A strength of Merrell’s thoughtful book is how he dramatizes the many changes the boys go through in terms of their fluid relationships and growing maturity. The book is, in sum, a feast for those hungry for character-driven literary fiction.



September 21

All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry All the Wind in the Worldby Samantha Mabry

Lakes have dried up, the earth is dying, and Sarah Jac and James flee southwest, leaving behind a gritty Chicago to harvest maguey in the desert. Surrounded by other transient workers, they hoard their money, hiding their love and scamming other workers while they dream of a different future. After an accident forces them to flee, the two find themselves working at the Real Marvelous, a ranch that’s rumored to be cursed. As Sarah Jac and James are inexorably drawn into this family and their secrets, strange and magical things begin to happen at the Real Marvelous—things no con in the world can overcome, things that even their love may not be able to withstand. A gripping, fablelike story of a love ferocious enough to destroy and a world prepared to burn with it.

September 22

A Natural by Ross Raisin A Natural, by Ross Raisin

Serious novels about gay athletes could be more rare than professionals who have come out at the peak of their careers. Here, Raisin (Waterline, 2012) introduces Tom Pearman, a talented 19-year-old English soccer player who’s recently signed with a lower-division team and is grappling with his attraction to the groundskeeper, Liam Davey. As Tom tries to prove himself professionally, and the team rebounds from a terrible season to a strong one, Raisin depicts their world with astonishing clarity, from callow Tom’s inexperience at life, to boardinghouse and team dynamics, to the agonizing slowness with which Tom and Liam recognize and own their attraction to each other—or not. While many references and assumptions will be more familiar to British than American readers and soccer fans, Raisin’s transporting and acutely observed novel speaks to us all. First-rate.




About the Author:

Enobong Essien is Booklist's first international intern, coming all the way from across the pond. Her favorite 'procrastinate from studying' activities include: reading, writing, crocheting and taking note of all the ways Americans are different than Brits.

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