Reviews of the Week with Espé, Peter Mendelsund, Angie Thomas, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Exciting new releases from lauded voices in graphic novels, audio, and fiction shine in this short but eventful week’s #ReviewsOfTheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Tuesday, January 19

The Parakeet, by Espé and translated by Hannah Chute

Penn State University Press, already a publisher of award-winning graphic titles, launches a new imprint, Graphic Mundi, showcasing comics intent on “drawing our worlds together.” Among its inaugural lineup is French comics artist Espé’s spectacular, autobiographically inspired homage to a childhood haunted by mental illness. At eight, Bastien already knows his mother has been in so many “psych homes” that he “wonder[s] if she’s earning points on a rewards card or something.” With Mama often institutionalized, Bastien lives with his father, next door to his maternal grandparents, with whom he also regularly stays. Despite all attempts to protect him, Bastien has seen too much: his mother’s horrific removal in “the shirt with belts,” her violent hallucinations, her unreachable disconnection. But he also remembers her warm devotion, their delightful outdoor adventures, her lucid moments of such love. His imagination, his friends, his father’s unbending determination will save, at least, the boy’s life. 

Wednesday, January 20

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler and read by Scott Brick

The prolific Scott Brick has one of the most recognizable voices in the audiobook world, and Raymond Chandler’s quintessential hardboiled sleuth, Philip Marlowe, has been portrayed on screen by multiple actors. So what happens when a reader as ubiquitous as Brick is asked to utter words associated with such iconic voices as those of Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum, both of whom played Marlowe in film versions of The Big Sleep? A cacophony of the familiar? Fortunately not. Brick has just enough gravel in his voice to please Mitchum fans, and he knows how to clip his words with the right edge of world-weary cynicism to evoke Bogie without imitating him. Brick’s renderings of some of the supporting characters aren’t well enough differentiated here, but that hardly matters in a novel that is primarily in the first person. 

Thursday, January 21

The Delivery, by Peter Mendelsund

Like his debut, Same Same (2019), Mendelsund’s second novel exists on an otherworldly plane; the protagonist is a young, unnamed immigrant who is working as a delivery boy. He spends his days dodging traffic on his bike, scrambling to get each delivery completed on time, and desperately trying to get tips and the requisite stars from his unimpressed customers. In brief, fractured chapters, the delivery boy makes his deliveries while also longing for the affections of N., a dispatcher in his Dickensian workplace. The graceful economy of language and a setting that feels almost like the real world are reminiscent of Kafka, while the halting prose echoes David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. But as well as being a fable set in a semi-recognizable place, this is also a vivid depiction of what it means to be a delivery driver in a world of casualized labor.  

Friday, January 22

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

Thomas delivers a poignant prequel to The Hate U Give (2017), commonly known as THUG, with this novel, set 17 years prior. Seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter is the son of a former gang member who follows the same path, selling drugs for the King Lords to help his mom with bills while his dad is in jail. He thinks he has everything figured out until fatherhood stares him in the face in the form of baby Seven. Maverick comes to realize that there’s so much more to life that can be lost now that Seven needs him. Then, someone close to Maverick is murdered, leaving him with more hard choices to make. He must define duty, family, and loyalty for himself and figure out if he will—or even can—leave gang life for good. 

mruzicka@ala.org'

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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