An incisive but slightly uneven debut collection about the nuances of queer identity.

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WE HAD NO RULES

Queer characters break rules and make them in Manning's smart debut collection.

"My family had no rules," says the teenage narrator in the title story. "At least it felt that way for a time, because most of the rules were vague and unspoken." There's one rule, however, that the narrator and her sister, Stacy, come to understand: Being queer is not OK. Stacy is kicked out for "choosing" her sexuality, and the narrator runs away before her parents can reject her. But joining her sister's queer household comes with new rules that, while intended to keep her safe, wind up putting her in a vulnerable position. These are intellectually keen stories that measure the high cost of heteronormativity and also critique equally restrictive norms within the queer community. "I'm sensitive about being recognized as queer or radical," explains the narrator of "Ninety Days," whose lover, Denise, has left her to transition to being a man. Being outwardly femme means the narrator has to perform her queerness and "come out, multiple times a day." Sometimes the rule is that there are no rules. At least that's what the queer narrator of "Chewbacca and Clyde" thinks when she comes home from a backpacking trip and brags to her partner, Meredith, about having had sex with a man. "Who are you?" Meredith asks. Manning's overriding interest in sex, sexuality, and power means their characters are sometimes conscripted into playing specific roles that flatten them and some of these stories. But when they complicate the script, this work is a powerful testament to the complexity of identity and desire. "The term’s ‘bottom,’ " a character describes, "but it's not always about penetration." Instead, it's about the "the vulnerability and the weight and the pain...and the sheer disbelief that I was a space for claiming and fitting."

An incisive but slightly uneven debut collection about the nuances of queer identity.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-55152-799-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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