Drake overplays the mood of sexual menace but is masterful at showing her characters’ sorrows percolate up even through the...

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I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH

British-born Drake makes her fiction debut with a novel narrated by an adolescent Parisian boy losing whatever innocence (not much) his childhood has allowed him.

To Paul, Paris’ wealthy sixth arrondisement near the Jardin du Luxumbourg is neither charming nor picturesque but “gray” and lonely. His high-achieving parents, Séverine and Philippe, moved to the bourgeois neighborhood only to be near a posh elementary school that ended up rejecting Paul. Overweight and poor at math, aware that he's always disappointed his parents, Paul finds himself on the cusp of adolescence and deeply unhappy. Having divorced a couple of years ago when Paul was 11, Séverine has just given birth to baby Lou with her rock-and-roll boyfriend, Gabriel, while Philippe lives in a St. Germaine bachelor pad and cares primarily about working out and his new Porsche. The only adult who pays attention to Paul is the maid, Cindy, who provides the comfort food he craves. Paul begins an unlikely friendship with a new girl in his class, bonding over their shared sense of being failures in their parents’ eyes. Scarlett is as unhappy as Paul and definitely as complex; strutting sexy rebel vibes but devoted to her dog and entranced by Lou, Scarlett previously attended a strict Catholic school until she was expelled. While their relationship remains platonic even after Scarlett and her boyfriend break up, Paul is thoroughly besotted. At the same time he keeps his eye on the machinations of the adults around him. He watches his snobby paternal grandparents make clear that Philippe can never measure up to his older, even more successful brother. He watches irresponsible Gabriel live off Séverine and Séverine’s desperate struggle against getting old. But then he inadvertently witnesses several deeply disturbing acts that will not surprise the reader but for which Paul is emotionally unprepared and which leave him feeling betrayed and more isolated than ever.

Drake overplays the mood of sexual menace but is masterful at showing her characters’ sorrows percolate up even through the novel’s most cynical moments.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55320-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love.

THE STATIONERY SHOP

Sixty years after her first love failed to meet her in a market square, Roya Khanom Archer finally has the chance to see him. But will he break her heart again?

Back in 1953, she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl, raised in a progressive home in Tehran, where her father encouraged Roya and her sister, Zari, to take advantage of the recent reforms that allowed women to go to university. While he hoped she might become a chemist, Roya loved escaping into novels, which sent her to Mr. Fakhri’s stationery and book store every Tuesday afternoon. There she first sees Bahman Aslan, a breathless young man already well-known as a political activist. Kamali (Together Tea, 2013) sets Roya and Bahman’s love against the tumultuous days of Mohammad Mossadegh’s rise and fall as prime minister of Iran, infusing their affair with political passion and an increasingly frantic sense of the shortness of time. Tuesday after Tuesday, the couple falls more deeply in love, and Bahman soon proposes marriage to Roya. While Roya’s family welcomes Bahman—although Zari warns Roya that his heart cannot be trusted—Bahman’s emotionally volatile mother refuses to accept the engagement, because she has already chosen Shahla, the daughter of a man closely allied with the shah, for her son. Roya determines to weather her future mother-in-law’s storms, but when Bahman and his family disappear, she can only turn to Mr. Fakhri for help. Although he cannot tell Roya where Bahman has gone, Mr. Fakhri offers to exchange secret letters between the lovers. The plan works, and the two even plan to elope, but Bahman does not show up in Sepah Square. Sixty years later, Bahman’s confession will finally expose the secrets that cast shadows over the lovers so long ago.

A sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-0748-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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