Reviews of the Week with Katrina Leno, Marwa Helal, Jan Wahl, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Step into an imaginary—or is it?—world created by a forlorn teen; see through the eyes of a poet who has experienced the violent policing of migration firsthand; look over the shoulder of remarkable inventor Hedy Lamarr; follow the fictionalized George W. Bush administration in the latest installment of a popular series. That’s right, it’s Friday at Booklist!—and we’ve collected the Reviews of the Day from this week, January 22–January 25, below.

Tuesday, January 22

 You Must Not Miss, by Katrina Leno

Once, Magpie Lewis had a normal life. That was before she caught her father naked with her aunt. Before her mother kicked him out of the house and started drinking. Before Magpie’s older sister walked out of the house and never came back. And before Allison, Magpie’s former best friend, stopped speaking to her and told everyone at school one version of how the worst night of Magpie’s life unfolded. Now Magpie is drifting through her sophomore year of high school, ignoring her classwork and blending in with a group of other social outcasts. At home, she writes about another world—a place called Near, where everything is peaceful, and no one ever left her. Soon, though, fantasy and reality start to meld; Near is not just a dream but a place that Magpie can go. But Near isn’t just a paradise. Near has teeth.

 

Wednesday, January 23

Invasive Species, by Marwa Helal

This ambitious, groundbreaking book of poetry is the first full-length collection from poet and journalist Helal, who arrived in the U.S. from Egypt as a child and has experienced firsthand the violent policing of migration. Helal’s incisive lyrics cut to the core of persistent issues and explode boundaries between genres, combining sparse new forms with newspaper scans, blank maps, scholarly abstracts, and official correspondence. Centered around a long hybrid section called “Immigration as a Second Language,” Helal’s collection blends verse and prose, memoir and reportage to recount the troubled passage from Egypt, through customs, and back again, a process that requires breathing human beings to define themselves through bureaucracies over and over again.

 

Thursday, January 24

Hedy & Her Amazing Invention, by Jan Wahl, Illus. by Morgana Wallace

While a list of movie stars during the 1930s and 1940s includes many who have faded from public memory, the name Hedy Lamarr is regaining prominence, though perhaps less for her acting career than for her little-known role as an inventor. Opening in Vienna in 1918, the simply written, pithy text introduces Hedy as a four-year-old returning from a movie theater and asking her father to explain how the pictures got on the screen. Later, as a young woman married to a wealthy older man, she left after he denied her a space where she could make things. Wahl portrays her as a curious child who loved to tinker, a beautiful woman with a mind of her own, and a successful Hollywood actress who found it more satisfying to work on her inventions, which included a “frequency-hopping” communications technology still used in electronics.

 

Friday, January 25

Landfall, by Thomas Mallon

The conclusion to a loose trilogy that includes Watergate (2012) and Finale (2015), Mallon’s latest incisive, historically themed novel centers on George W. Bush’s second term. It provides an insider’s view of how his ambitious agenda gets derailed by the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina and the inept federal response to it. Mallon demonstrates great skill in animating a large cast of prominent personalities, with characterizations ranging from cheekily funny (the banter between Larry King and former Texas governor Ann Richards) to biting (the good-looking, self-interested John Edwards) to deeply empathetic. Readers will find some nods to today’s political dramas; for instance, Brett Kavanaugh makes several appearances. Witty conversation ensues as scenes shift between meetings, speeches, elegant dinners, and other domestic and international gatherings, while the depiction of flooded New Orleans is starkly sobering.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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