A daring book that will stay in readers’ minds long after the final page.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

ATHENA'S CHOICE

In this sci-fi debut, men have gone extinct, and one woman must decide how society should continue.

It’s 2099, and 19-year-old Athena Vosh lives in the Algonquin Forest Zone of the North American Union. Her main source of income is her Citizen’s Benefit stipend, but she wants to become a landscape painter. She lives with her partner, Nomi James, who designs computer programs for “massage implants.” Both women routinely print clothing and food and interact with their Advanced Artificially-Intelligent Scheduler and Home Assistant. But the strangest thing about their world is that there are no men in it. The last one died in 2051 from Y-Fever, a disease created to kill terrorists that mutated and killed every man on Earth, including transgender men, as well as some women. A company called Helix has been trying to find a cure so that men might someday return. When someone steals an incomplete map of a fever-immune “Lazarus Genome” from Helix’s mainframe, Capt. Valerie Bell of Public Safety investigates. Oddly, the world’s most powerful artificial intelligence, the Third Core, enigmatically suggests to Bell’s supervisor that Athena is vital to solving the case. Meanwhile, Athena has been painting pictures of a ruined, vine-covered building that’s stuck in her head. She soon travels to Chicago, the North American Union’s capital, for an interview with Capt. Bell. As Athena dreams of the mysterious building and of the phrase “Original Sin is Real,” she grapples with being a “Lonely Heart”—a woman who yearns for men to return. Boostrom’s tale is fueled by sharp dialogue and challenging ideas, and it’s an invigorating read in an age of political and cultural division. His fictional world, with its population loss, nuclear terrorism, and risen oceans, is futuristic but familiar; rather than swiping right on a dating app, women swipe right in midair while using a contact lens–based web interface to schedule fertility consultations. This future is also apparently much safer without men: “Crime rates in the NAU were below 1%.” Boostrom frequently references famous paintings to emphasize Athena’s chosen field; his most poignant nod is to René Magritte’s Clairvoyance, which shows a man staring at an egg but painting a bird. According to Athena, this man does what she lacks the talent to do—“he’s viewing all of the egg’s future-promise and potential, fully brought to life.” The first two-thirds of the novel are a taut sci-fi mystery, but the last portion fearlessly interrogates the roots of maleness. The book presents 2099 as a near utopia, aside from a rising suicide rate, which could imply that most women are saints but for the evil to which men drive them; however, the author also has the Third Core say that "some women will be more dangerous than the average man."

A daring book that will stay in readers’ minds long after the final page.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79420-555-0

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more