An intriguing premise turns disappointingly banal.

ONE YEAR OF UGLY

A Venezuelan family living illegally in Trinidad is forced to work for a crime lord in this comic novel.

Twenty-four-year-old Yola Palacio and her extended family are having a backyard barbecue when a man holding a gun strides into the gathering, introduces himself as Ugly, and announces that Yola’s recently deceased Aunt Celia owed him a large sum of money, which the entire Palacios family must pay off by working for him—on pain of death or deportation back to the dysfunctional Venezuela they fled two years earlier. The four Palacios households begin receiving waves of illegal immigrants, whom they must house, feed, and entertain for free. Shuttling these refugees is Ugly’s handsome enforcer, Román, toward whom Yola feels an immediate and bewildering carnal pull. Soon the Palacios settle into a sort of rhythm: Every few months, they host “a mix of fleeing intellectuals, political refugees, impoverished asylum seekers, and a smattering of adventurers just looking for a new start,” befriending their kinder guests and tolerating the obnoxious ones. Everyone, that is, except Yola's Aunt Milagros, who becomes suspicious of the refugees and eventually shoots a child living in her home. Román tells Yola—they’ve become lovers who bond over their “shared love of books”—that he’s sent Milagros back to Venezuela and told Ugly that she’s dead, and the remaining Palacios are forced to work in Ugly’s clandestine high-end strip club in various capacities. Debut author Mackenzie maintains a jangly, casual sort of humor throughout (“My father was born for safe-housing illegal migrants…he fell upon our new houseguests with all the bonhomie of a Sandals Resort manager, bearing three buckets of fried chicken and a bottle of rum”). But just as often her prose is choked with clichés—“With a thunder crack, in a perfect display of pathetic fallacy, the clouds split.” And while the novel provides a much-needed view into the many double binds of illegal immigration, it also, troublingly, seems to prop up stereotypes. At one point, Yola curses her “inability to thwart all those genetically wired impulses that allow pop culture to accurately peg Latin women as 'feisty,' 'fiery,' and 'mothafuckin’ crazy as shit.' ” Really?

An intriguing premise turns disappointingly banal.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982128-91-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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