Reviews of the Week with Linda Rui Feng, Daniel Aleman, Sabina Khan, and More!

The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of March 29 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Hurricane: My Story of Resilience, by Salvador Gómez-Colón. For the full week-in-review treatment, subscribe to our newsletter, Booklist Reader Update.

Monday, March 29

Kafka and the Doll, by Larissa Theule and read by Adam Alexi-Malle

In 1923 Berlin, Franz Kafka encounters young Irma in the park. The girl is sad over the loss of her beloved doll, Soupsy. The author returns to the park over the following months with letters from Soupsy detailing her worldwide travels and adventures; these soften Irma’s grief. The gentle picture book about the bittersweet nature of growing up, and growing old, is lovingly conveyed in this audio production. Soft piano music provides a soundbed for Alexi-Malle’s voice. He infuses dialogue with the hint of a German accent to indicate the book’s location, and lightens his voice to a youthful timbre to read for both Soupsy and Irma. Sound effects that illuminate Soupsy’s travels—crunching footsteps and whooshing winds as she summits a mountain peak, Parisian café tunes and clinking dishes as she dines under the Eiffel Tower—are modulated to enhance the narration without overwhelming it. The author’s note adds important background and detail to this lovely production.

Tuesday, March 30

Swimming Back to Trout River, by Linda Rui Feng

Feng’s lithe debut moves with grace from Communist China to San Francisco and the Great Plains, and from the 1960s to the 1980s, as it follows four interlocked lives. Aspiring engineer Momo meets violinist Dawn at college in Beijing shortly before their lives are torn apart by the cultural revolution. Years later, he marries Cassia, who works at the same factory he does, and they have a child, Junie, who is born without lower legs. At the same time that Dawn defects to the U.S., Momo, unbeknownst to Dawn, enrolls in graduate school there. Cassia, unable to cope, leaves Junie with Momo’s parents in the village of Trout River. Feng moves fluidly back and forth through time, lighting down on defining moments in her characters’ lives, which might be as obvious as the incursion of political power or as evanescent as the emotions brought to life by nature or a piece of music. 

Wednesday, March 31

Indivisible, by Daniel Aleman

Mateo Garcia works a daily shift at his father’s corner bodega, time that he would rather spend with his best friends, going to Broadway shows, or pursuing his goal of attending the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. But all of Mateo’s plans go out the window the day his undocumented immigrant parents are picked up by ICE agents. Mateo’s every waking moment (and his sleepless nights) is occupied with taking care of his seven-year-old sister, Sophie, and trying to figure out where his parents have been taken. He’s afraid to tell anyone at school. Fortunately, a family friend, Jorge, steps in and finds a pro bono lawyer. Meanwhile, Mateo struggles to make rent on the family apartment and to feed and clothe Sophie. When going to school and avoiding Child Protective Services prove too much, the siblings move in with Jorge’s family. It’s not until Sophie’s inability to adjust to life without their parents forces Mateo to consider leaving all his dreams behind that he’s finally able to consider reaching out to his friends for support.

Thursday, April 1

Girl in the Walls, by A. J. Gnuse

Strange, outré—this remarkable debut novel is both of these and more. Consider its story: 11-year-old Elise walks away from the car crash that has killed her parents and returns to their old house, not the new one they had moved into only months before but to her true home. Once there, she enters secretly and, unbeknownst to its present residents, the Mason family, takes up her own sequestered residence in the walls of the house. Gradually, as time passes, the two Mason boys, Eddie, 13, and Marshall, 16, begin to sense the presence of something unseen in the house. Marshall summons a man he has discovered online who claims to be familiar with such a circumstance—a big mistake, since the man, Jonah Traust, turns out to be either a monomaniac or an outright madman, threatening the boys and fleeing only when the authorities show up.

Friday, April 2

Zara Hossain Is Here, by Sabina Khan

On the surface, Zara Hossain’s life appears as normal as that of most 17-year-olds: she has two incredibly loyal friends, parents who love and support her (even after she comes out as bisexual), and a girlfriend who shares her sentiments. But underneath, the strain of uncertainty wraps around Zara and her parents, all Muslim Pakistani immigrants who’ve been waiting for their green cards for eight years. Worse yet, Tyler—the star football player at her school in Corpus Christi, Texas—is openly racist, and when his discriminatory remarks escalate to vandalizing the Hossains’ home, it leads to a violent confrontation. Before they know it, Zara’s family not only faces a health crisis, but their immigration status and the life they’ve sought for so long is in limbo.'

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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