Reviews of the Week with Jenny Offill, Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, 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 revelatory portrait of a marriage and family in flux. An immediate tale about two teens searching for something to believe in. A stunning change of pace from one of crime fiction’s new stars. A powerful and confrontational read for mature teens. And a delightfully freewheeling romp. It’s all captured in this week’s reviews of the day, listed below!

Monday, December 9

Weather, by Jenny Offill

Offill follows her best-selling previous novel, Dept. of Speculation (2014), with another crisply revelatory portrait of a marriage and family in flux. Narrator Lizzie is a “feral” university librarian, lacking the degree yet possessing the requisite inquiring intelligence and forbearing sense of humor. Her husband is a classics scholar turned educational video game designer, and their young son is sweetly comic and precocious. Lizzie also tends to her neurotic brother, whose battle against drug addiction is ongoing, and her fixed-income mother. Enter Lizzie’s college mentor, Sylvia, who cajoles her into accepting a side gig handling the end-times-lunatic messages from the increasingly vociferous audience for Sylvia’s controversially bleak podcast, Hell and High Water


Tuesday, December 10

Yes No Maybe So, by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

For Jamie Goldberg, campaigning for Jordan Rossum is a way to make a difference before he can vote. Canvassing, though, freaks him out; speaking in front of people (or to them) isn’t his strong suit. For Maya Rehman, Rossum isn’t impressive—just another white guy running for office, and not even an experienced one. Her summer is already terrible: her parents have split, and her best friend has been totally unavailable. When her mom basically forces her to canvass with Jamie for the summer, Maya is less than thrilled. She and Jamie don’t exactly get off on the right foot either; he’s painfully awkward and keeps forgetting she’s fasting for Ramadan, while she’s dismissive of his commitment. But as they slowly find their footing, they both start to feel like they’re part of something bigger.

Wednesday, December 11

Hi Five, by Joe Ide

Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe, the Sherlock Holmes of East Long Beach, usually winds up taking on two kinds of investigations: pro bono cases in which his friends from the neighborhood pay on the barter system, and the other, not-so-amiable kind, where serious bad guys threaten bodily harm, either to Isaiah or those closest to him, if he doesn’t solve whatever seemingly inexplicable problem they face. This is that kind, and it’s a doozy. The sleaziest of arms dealers, Angus Byrne, corrals Isaiah into finding the murderer of one of his associates (both of Isaiah’s girlfriends, new and old, are at risk if he doesn’t deliver). This is no everyday murder investigation: Angus’ daughter, Christiana, is the likeliest suspect, but that’s only the beginning.

Thursday, December 12

Bent Heavens, by Daniel Kraus

Olivia (Liv) was a freshman when her gentle, bookish father, Lee, swore he’d been abducted by aliens. For months, he raved about the horrors he’d endured and obsessed over defending his home from invaders. Then he disappeared. Now a popular senior, Liv has learned to mask the still-raw wounds left by his legacy. The only holdover from her former life is Doug, the town pariah who worshipped Lee, and their Sunday excursions into the woods to check Lee’s traps. They never catch anything but unlucky wildlife—until the day they find a live alien. Liv wants to go public and clear her dad’s name, but Doug proposes another way to get justice. Aren’t they at war, after all? Kraus’ timely new novel, blending sf, coming-of-age realism, and psychological horror, is a brutal, unflinching look at how ordinary people can come to justify dehumanization, torture, and the abuse of power.

Friday, December 13

Oona Out of Order, by Margarita Montimore

For Oona Lockhart, New Year’s Eve isn’t just an excuse to throw on a sparkly dress and pop a bottle of bubbly. It’s also the final day of understanding her place in the world, teetering on the precipice of what she calls “time leaps.” Oona’s memory issues are complicated, but she’s learned to expect that every January she wakes up in a different year. She lives her life non-chronologically, leaping from the Uber/iPhone peak of 2015 to the height of the club kid craze in 1991 to the questionable fashion choices of 1983. The time leaps are confusing, to say the least, but Oona has a bit of guidance in the form of a handwritten letter from her earlier self to explain the highs and lows of the upcoming year, and her mother, Madeleine, her bedrock. While many of us may feel that our internal age doesn’t match our external appearance, Montimore (Asleep from Day, 2018) takes that conceit to its witty, humorous, heartwarming extreme.

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