THE NATURE OF MONSTERS

Clark has talent and energy to burn. But she’s burning both up in wasteful displays of gratuitous pyrotechnics.

A seduced and abandoned maiden’s tribulations in early 18th-century London are recounted with almost frightening gusto in the British author’s successor to her debut historical novel, The Great Stink (2005).

When teenaged Eliza Tally is rejected by the well-born lover who impregnated her, then “married” her only nominally, Eliza’s pragmatic mother sends her away to become maid to London apothecary Grayson Black, whose truculent wife manages the household and savagely mistreats Eliza and her “half-witted” companion servant Mary. Eliza’s pregnancy is also endangered by the unwelcome attentions of Black’s oafish apprentice Edgar Pettigrew—and by her increasing suspicions that scientific researches undertaken by the secretive Black are disturbingly related to his interest in her services. The narrative of Eliza’s experiences and discoveries is juxtaposed with Black’s research notes and correspondence, from which we learn that he is studying “effects of strong emotions, fear, desire, and such like, upon the physical form of a foetus”; furthermore, using pregnant females as laboratory animals, to learn what “monsters” they may produce. The roots of Black’s obsession lie in the circumstances of his own birth: a story Clark (unwisely) declines to tell. Instead, she concocts a raving melodrama (precisely and impressively researched, but almost insanely lurid). It’s a compound of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, in which too many characters are drooling or malformed grotesques and virtually every scene is a festering sewer (the spectacle of St. Paul’s Cathedral being a hopeful exception), with numerous incidents plunging into stomach-churning visceral and excretory detail. Eliza perseveres, thanks to an initially benign bookseller, thwarted by the malevolent Ms. Black, ennobled by her protective affection for the pathetic Mary (whose own history holds secrets eventually disclosed). And all falls apart, in a climax so absurd it would seem excessive in the lamest of bodice-rippers.

Clark has talent and energy to burn. But she’s burning both up in wasteful displays of gratuitous pyrotechnics.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-15-101206-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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MAYBE SOMEDAY

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

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

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: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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