Reviews of the Week with Edwidge Danticat, Adrian McKinty, 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.

A haunting short story collection that focuses on urgent contemporary issues; a youth-centered adaptation of the history of Indigenous people in the United States; a frightening and dark choice forced upon the parent of a kidnapped child; an underground mythical world as narrated by a brother searching for his sibling in the aftermath of the Blitz. Fiction and nonfiction, illustrated and collected, are offered for the Reviews of the Day, all posted during this short holiday week, below.

Monday, July 1

Everything Inside, by Edwidge Danticat

Following The Art of Death (2017), a reflection on her mother’s passing and writing, Danticat focuses this haunting eight-story collection on, well, death. Looming death becomes a bargaining chip in “Dosas,” when an ex-husband begs his ex-wife to help save her kidnapped replacement, and in “In the Old Days,” when an adult daughter is summoned to the final bedside of her never-met-before father. Survivors navigate new lives in “The Gift,” which portrays an artist who lost her lover’s baby, and her lover, who has lost his wife and young daughter, and in “Seven Stories,” in which a prime minister’s wife and daughter persevere after his assassination.


Tuesday, July 2

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Jean Mendoza, and Debbie Reese

This adaptation of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (2014) should be required reading for all middle and high schoolers—and their teachers. Dunbar-Ortiz’s scrutinous accounts of Indigenous histories are well-known among history buffs, and in this revision by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, the same level of detail is maintained while still accommodating a teenage audience. From start to finish, they tell a story of resistance to the strategically brutal removal of Native peoples from sea to shining sea, a result of settler colonial policies. There is much to commend here: the lack of sugar-coating, the debunking of origin stories, the linking between ideology and actions, the well-placed connections among events past and present, the quotes from British colonizers and American presidents that leave no doubt as to their violent intentions. Built-in prompts call upon readers to reflect and think critically about their own prior knowledge.

Wednesday, July 3

The Chain, by Adrian McKinty

Best known for his outstanding Sean Duffy series, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, McKinty has also written several gripping stand-alones, of which this one is the best yet; in fact, it may well be the biggest thriller of the summer. You know you’re having a bad day when you get a phone call telling you your daughter has been kidnapped, and, to get her back, you must not only pay $25,000 but also kidnap somebody else. It’s called the Chain, and it’s a Ponzi scheme from hell: if you don’t keep the chain going by becoming a kidnapper, and if the next parents don’t kidnap a child in turn, your child dies. Rachel Klein gets one more phone call on this very bad day: the cancer she thought was gone may be back. So begins a high-concept thriller that draws creatively on familiar tropes, especially the idea of an ordinary person forced to draw on previously untapped strengths to overcome adversity. Except, in this case, it isn’t just a matter of upping your game to fend off an external threat; it’s something much darker.

Friday, July 5

Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black, by Marcus Sedgwick and Julian Sedgwick and illustrated by Alexis Deacon

A Blitz-ravaged London meets the underworld of Greek mythology in this remarkable literary mélange from Printz winner Marcus Sedgwick and his brother, Julian. When a German bomb levels the pub where 19-year-old Harry and his brother, Ellis, have just reconciled, Harry survives with a blow to the head, but Ellis is lost in the wreckage. Against doctor’s orders, Harry returns to the bomb site in search of his brother, thus beginning his descent into a twentieth-century hellscape of rubble, bunkers, and tunnels. As Harry’s grasp of reality dissolves into hallucination, and the London Underground blurs into the mythic underworld, the novel shifts between Harry’s epistolary accounts and the free-verse narration of the poet Orpheus, further intercut by Deacon’s black-and-white paintings of a dystopian cyberpunk nightmare. Astonishingly, it works. The reader is so transported into Harry’s fever dream that the muddling delusions become a shared experience.

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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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