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MAN'S BEST FRIEND

After a promising start, this debut ends up being all bark, no bite.

A floundering young woman gains access to a world of privilege through her mysterious new boyfriend.

Twenty-nine-year-old El is used to living on the fringes. She spent her teen years in Manhattan in a cramped apartment with her single mother and her mother’s best friend, sharing a bedroom with the friend’s son. She received financial aid to attend a prestigious private school filled with ultrarich students but had only tangential access to their lives of quiet luxury. Even now, El can’t break through in her career as an actor, instead working in a bakery and trying to figure out her next move. When El’s old classmate Julia unexpectedly offers an invitation to a party at her family’s East Hampton home, El can’t resist returning to that tony world, even for just one night. It’s there that El meets Bryce, a Cambridge graduate from a filthy rich family who is immediately, and intensely, taken with her. Though El isn’t particularly attracted to Bryce’s looks or personality, she’s attracted to what being with him brings—the life of ease and financial security she’s always wanted. When the two quickly move in together, El begins to lose touch with the world outside her relationship, quitting her job, dumping her roommate, and ghosting her friends—just as Bryce’s true nature starts coming to light. The author is deft at creating a tense atmosphere—complete with suspicious characters, sinister motivations, disturbing events, and an off-kilter narrator—that will keep readers turning the pages. But the lackluster conclusion strains credulity, and a symbolic thread that runs throughout the novel—dogs across the country are running away from and rebelling against their owners—is unsuccessful and, ultimately, has no bearing on the plot.

After a promising start, this debut ends up being all bark, no bite.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593715024

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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