Reviews of the Week with Dean Koontz, Sandhya Menon, Pico Iyer, 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.

An exciting conclusion to a popular thriller series; a popular YA author’s return to rom-com and some familiar characters; a striking tribute to women photographers; a travel writer’s introspective journey after a loss in the family; a coming-of-age narrative about the impact of high expectations. The best and most anticipated titles are offered in the Reviews of the Day from this week, March 11–March 15, below.

Monday, March 11

The Night Window, by Dean Koontz

Can it be true? Is this really the final novel about FBI Agent Jane Hawk and her single-minded pursuit of the conspirators who murdered her husband and who are plotting to take over the world? It sure looks like it. While readers might be disappointed that this intense, captivating series is ending after only five books, they will surely be thrilled by the way Koontz orchestrates the spectacular finale to Jane’s story. Knowledge of the first four books in the series is pretty much mandatory here; the author frequently alludes to people or events from the earlier novels without full clarification. On the other hand, this drama-filled conclusion, in which Jane reaches a final confrontation with the cabal she has been stalking through the previous volumes, will hit series fans with all the impact of a carefully calibrated hammer blow.

 

Tuesday, March 12

There’s Something about Sweetie, by Sandhya Menon

Seventeen-year-old, swoonworthy Ashish Patel is the basketball star of Richmond Academy. Bummed after being dumped by his college girlfriend, he challenges his parents to make good on their constant threat to find him an Indian American girl to date. Their choice is Sweetie Nair, Piedmont High’s track star. When Ashish’s mother proposes the match, Sweetie’s mother adamantly insists that their children aren’t compatible—namely because Sweetie is fat. Furious with her mother’s constant ragging about her weight, Sweetie takes matters into her own hands and agrees to the Patels’ four-date contract without telling her parents. Ashish and Sweetie accept the arrangement, each feeling they have something to prove, wondering if this arranged match will work, and not knowing what will happen when Sweetie’s parents find out. Ashish and Sweetie share narrative duties, and both are flanked by supportive friends and caring parents—even if their approaches to love can be painful at times. Menon, as always, champions teens by allowing them the space and pace to make decisions, succeed or fail, learn, and blossom.

 

Wednesday, March 13

Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg

From Bee Season (2000) onward, Goldberg has portrayed girls and young women with fluent sensitivity. In her brilliantly structured fourth novel, she revisits the theme again, in the story of photographer Lillian Preston, who, chronically shy yet determined, flees Cleveland for New York in 1953 at 17 and becomes an accidental single mother at 19. She loves Samantha, but photography rules their threadbare lives. A masterful street photographer, Lillian also passionately photographs her young daughter, who loves posing for her. When she exhibits in a small Brooklyn gallery a series of innocently made photographs of partially clad Samantha, both Lillian and the gallery owner are arrested. The outrage over photographer Sally Mann’s portraits of her children comes to mind, and, indeed, Mann is one of a number of real-life artists, along with Diane Arbus and Vivian Maier, who inspired Goldberg. This mesmerizing mosaic of a novel takes the form of an unconventional museum-exhibition catalogue containing letters, Lillian’s journal, and Samantha’s piercing commentary on photographs we feel as though we’ve seen and her interviews with her mother’s few friends, each fascinating.

 

Thursday, March 14

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells, by Pico Iyer

In The Art of Stillness (2014), Iyer urged readers to find contentment by slowing down. This wisdom is reflected in the beloved travel writer and journalist’s wistful and conscious memoir filled with musings about home, culture, family, and death. After the passing of his father-in-law, Iyer leaves his second home in California for Japan to comfort his wife, Hiroko. Returning to his two-room apartment in a Eurocentric neighborhood outside Kyoto, Iyer sees the familiar land of serenity and superstition as though through new eyes. He marvels at the mystical rituals his wife practices to ensure a happy afterlife for her father and explores why Hiroko’s intellectual brother cut ties with the family. He recounts his daughter’s battle with Hodgkin’s disease and makes his case that Japan’s reddening maple leaves are more iconic than the cherry blossoms. As in his previous work, the British-born Indian American also examines the role of the globalist.

 

Friday, March 15

Mike, by Andrew Norriss

Floyd, 15, has trained from age 5 to become the youngest UK Under-18s National Tennis Champion. His dream is to win Wimbledon, and his dad, a former ranked player himself, believes Floyd can do it. Every time Floyd wins, he is given a fish as a reward, and now he has five full fish tanks. It seems as though Floyd’s only rival for the title is girl-magnet Barrington Gates, and he is well on his way to accomplishing his dream—until Mike, a mysterious teenager no one else can see, begins appearing to him. Mike rarely speaks, but his unexpected appearances on the court while Floyd plays are seriously throwing off Floyd’s game. Floyd’s understanding psychologist helps Floyd realize who Mike truly is and what he wants. Teens with parents who have high expectations for them will relate to Floyd’s situation. This contemporary coming-of-age tale portrays mental health issues without stigmatizing them and has a timeless feel.

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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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