A challenging, compassionate novel about the aftermath of exploitation and packaged youth.

AESTHETICA

A former Instagram model prepares for a surgery that promises to undo all her previous cosmetic procedures in this dark and poignant debut.

Anna is 35, and she has a face she no longer recognizes. After years of fillers and lifts—not all of which have aged well—she has the opportunity to begin aging naturally again if she goes through with the risky Aesthetica™ procedure. This surgery has its own artificiality; it won’t just remove implants and scar tissue but involves stretching her skin to create the lines that would have presumably formed if Anna hadn’t ever used Botox. Whereas her previous cosmetic procedures brought her closer to a symmetrical, consumable Instagram ideal, Aesthetica™ can restore Anna’s resemblance to her grandmother, a resemblance her mother always cherished. On the eve of the operation, Anna unravels the past that led her here—in particular, the power games and sexual abuse she experienced with her boyfriend and manager, Jake—and the relationships with her mother and her childhood best friend, Leah, she alternately shied away from and chased. Rowbottom’s prose moves back and forth from striking imagery to staccato simplicity (“Jake led me through the club, walking with a languid gait, his shoulders rolled back so that his heart looked open and imperiled. We sat at a sticky banquette”), which gives it an entrancing quality, like the best social media algorithms. While structurally the novel is conventional, tracking a naïve young woman’s entrapment in a sordid world and her reawakening as an adult, Rowbottom’s specificity about one moment in internet culture and the contradictory ideologies about autonomy and desire young women must parse make it worthwhile reading.

A challenging, compassionate novel about the aftermath of exploitation and packaged youth.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29400-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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