Larger-than-life characters drive this charming, hilarious, and memorable debut.

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A STAR IS BORED

In the dynamic partnership that is Hollywood icon and celebrity assistant, who needs whom more?

This debut novel, based loosely on the author’s own experiences as a celebrity assistant, quickly establishes normalcy as a fluid concept. Normal for Charlie, a news writer in LA, is defined by working the graveyard shift and regularly contemplating suicide. Open to any opportunity to hit reset on his life, he takes a lead from intolerable executive assistant Bruce, whom he met at a gay bar and now hate-follows on social media. Kathi Kannon, star of cult-favorite film Nova Quest, is looking for an assistant. Charlie soon finds himself far outside his comfort zone, buzzing the intercom of his childhood idol. His call is answered with a curt “HURRY!” and the gate opens to his new life. Kathi’s world is, in a word, chaos, and Charlie—now dubbed rather salaciously as Cockring—is tasked with establishing a routine. As in: “feed her, water her, medicate her.” Turns out, Charlie was not left with an Assistant Bible, the invaluable tool that helps new assistants navigate a life to which they could never relate. Deciphering Kathi is a 24-hour task (“KATHI: I urgently need teeth splinter barfs….ME: Toothpicks, you need toothpicks?...KATHI: Horble twat”), and their dynamic will be as amusing for the reader as it is all-consuming for Charlie. Duality is a key theme of this relationship, as Kathi not-so-subtly becomes a second mother figure to Charlie after helping him realize the absurd tragedy of his childhood (“[Your mom] died in a fucking church?!”). At the same time, entranced by Kathi's Hollywood shine, Charlie rationalizes the absurdity in her daily life in a way that leaves him blind to her shadows. Kathi and Charlie’s story is one of addiction—mostly to other people and what they can add to your life. Their story is also deeply human, relatable in the most unrelatable way. Bravo to Lane, who deftly navigates the complexity of inner and outer lives as well as the many facets of normal. Add this to the Assistant Bible: A famous person’s boredom is another person’s saving grace.

Larger-than-life characters drive this charming, hilarious, and memorable debut.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26649-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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