Reviews of the Week, with Mick Heron, Matt de la Peña, Ben Austen, and David Cay Johnston

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from December 18–21 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.

 

Tuesday, January 2

 This Is What Happened, by Mick Herron

A profoundly disturbing tale from CWA Gold and Steel Daggers winner Herron about an insufficiently socialized young woman who was never warned to be careful what she wished for. Twenty-six-year-old Maggie Barnes is, sadly, one of those people you would never look at twice, the kind of person who could vanish from the face of the earth without anyone taking notice. She lives a solitary, more or less hand-to-mouth existence in a London that is singularly bleak. There is an aching absence of color and texture, except for a telltale yellow scarf. Maggie believes she has been recruited for MI5 by a man she meets at a local café. Is this, at last, a chance to make her life matter? Of course not.

 

Wednesday, January 3

Love, by Matt de la Peña

Newbery Award–winning de la Peña offers a lyrical ode to love in this stirring picture book. It opens with the loving coos of parents, gazing at their new baby, but the subsequent places where love can be found are less obvious: love emerges “in the smell of crashing waves”; “the rustling leaves of a gnarled tree”; “in the made-up stories your uncles tell”; and “the face staring back in the bathroom mirror.” In de la Peña’s lines, love becomes not just an emotion between people but a feeling suffusing the world.

 

 

 

Thursday, January 4

It’s Even Worse Than You Think, by David Cay Johnston

Johnston, news commentator and author of the best-selling The Making of Donald Trump (2016), has been reporting on Donald J. Trump for decades. Here he brings his Pulitzer Prize–winning journalistic skills and deep concern about the state of our union to a momentously thorough account of President Trump’s alarmingly chaotic first year in office, focusing on largely unreported stories about what’s afoot far from the blare of Trump’s tweets and perpetual circus of denials, lies, and diversions.

 

 

Friday, January 5

 High-Risers, by Ben Austen

Austen’s impressive study of Chicago’s 23-tower Cabrini-Green public housing project, razed but its legacy looming still, was conducted during years of reporting and interviewing. Like Alex Kotlowitz’s seminal There Are No Children Here (1992), which chronicled the lives of two brothers living in Chicago’s Henry Horner homes yet was not solely the story of one family, building, or city, Austen offers a local history of profound national relevance.

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