REBECCA, NOT BECKY

At its best when having savvy fun with stereotypes and the sub rosa operations of female social networks.

Two wealthy stay-at-home moms, one Black and one white, deal with the complexities of race.

“ ‘Only three more weeks of being Black and bougie with my besties!’ De’Andrea wailed. ‘Then I’ll be living among the Whites, and be stuck dealing with Karens and Beckys and all their caucasity!’ ” In order to be close to her mother-in-law in a high-end memory-care facility, former corporate lawyer De’Andrea Whitman and her ultra-hot, super successful husband, Malik, are moving to Rolling Hills, a gated community in Virginia where they will be the only Black people—except for the security guys working the gate. Her Atlanta friends later joke that the family they saw shopping during their tour with the realtor were “Negroes-for-Hire,” staged to deceive them. Chapters alternate between De’Andrea, written in exuberant style, and the other protagonist, an earnest, anxious, to-do-list-obsessed white woman named Rebecca Myland. Not Becky, as she keeps reminding people—and, in fact, the pejorative meaning of the nickname doesn’t fit her. She’s well aware of her privilege even if her husband doesn’t get it. She chairs the diversity committee at the nearly all-white elementary school and is about to lead a charge to remove a Confederate statue from the local park. She's eager to get De’Andrea involved, though De’Andrea would really rather not, and she’s not dying to join Rebecca’s book club, either—but her therapist has directed her to make at least one white friend in Rolling Hills, challenging De’Andrea to overcome her extremely unabashed distaste. Then the two women’s daughters fall in mad kindergarten love and there's no stopping it—the distance between them must narrow.

At its best when having savvy fun with stereotypes and the sub rosa operations of female social networks.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780063213586

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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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

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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