Young people lacking ambition, confused about relationships and searching for the meaning of life: what else is new?

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If the world needs another Bret Easton Ellis, New Zealand author Perkins could be a contender. Her debut novel, populated with disgruntled twentysomethings like those in her story collection, Not Her Real Name (not reviewed), promises sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but after an exciting start delivers mostly ennui.

Daniel is an unemployed young Londoner going nowhere when his friend Richard and an unsavory character named Sticksy sucker him into making a drug run from Bangkok to Auckland. It isn’t the lure of beer, beach, and Thai virgins that makes Daniel jump at the offer, but the idea of adventure and the $10,000 he hopes will give him the chance to make a new start. A few weeks later, confined to his room and the murky pool at a tacky Pattaya resort, he’s rethinking his rash decision as his anxiety intensifies along with his sunburn and stomach ills, but he’s afraid to do anything except wait for his instructions. By the time Daniel’s contact shows up with the heroin-filled condoms he’s to ingest and smuggle through customs, the tension is deliciously unbearable. Perkins skillfully sets up Daniel’s dilemma and maintains the pace right through his arrival in New Zealand. But then she shifts to the travails of a group of local slackers, zeroing in on Kate, an underachiever who works as an usher in a movie theater. The action shifts back and forth from Daniel to Kate until, inevitably, the two meet but never really connect, the depths of their alienation painfully apparent. While Perkins effectively captures the mood and mores of her subjects, once Daniel’s mission is complete, the anguish of youth takes center stage and the story goes flat.

Young people lacking ambition, confused about relationships and searching for the meaning of life: what else is new?

Pub Date: May 12, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019661-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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