A promising but unrealized dystopian tale.


A speculative novel tells the story of a man and his unrequited crush who become survivors of an apocalyptic event.

Twenty-seven-year-old Chucho lives with his Uncle Rodrigo in Miami. Just a few months ago, Chucho was making good money writing for a fetish-porn website, but since it was shut down, he’s been forced to serve as a busboy at a local Brazilian steakhouse. He spends his shifts ogling the hostess, Shiraz Zirel, who will not give him the time of day. He’s just about given up hope that they will ever be together when, suddenly, everyone else disappears. Literally: “I woke up around 11 am on a Sunday, and the world was gone. Uncle Rodrigo was gone. My neighbors were gone. The streets were empty with cars strewn about in the middle of roads and in backyards.” Chucho explores the city, but can’t find another living soul. Then he goes to the restaurant to pick up his final check and finds none other than Shiraz: the girl of his dreams and the last woman in Miami. As it turns out, they’re not terribly compatible. After a lot of bickering, they decide to follow some mysterious blue lights in the sky down the coast, driving all the way to Key West. They’re just starting to get along when they run into another person and, oddly enough, it’s someone they know: Benito, a server from the steakhouse whom Shiraz used to hook up with. The information he has is even more astounding. The lights they have been seeing belong to a damaged flying saucer. But Chucho may not be able to fully trust Benito—or Shiraz—because both of them have a few secrets hidden in their pasts. Zablah’s (Ciao! Miami, 2006) prose is frequently lyrical, particularly his colorful descriptions of Chucho’s world. “At some point early on my parents turned into a radiant blur,” the protagonist reflects early in the tale, “kind of like a falling star your eyes are trying to focus in on while taking an evening hike in the Everglades. And the older I got, the more they faded.” But the dialogue is less endearing, as the three characters frequently engage in inane conversations overladen with distracting profanity and—in the case of the men—misogynistic language. Chucho is supposed to be 27, but his outlook on sex and relationships seems more akin to that of a 17-year-old. The novel is told in three parts, one each from the perspectives of Chucho, Shiraz, and Benito, and as the point of view shifts, new and illuminating information is provided. Even so, a great deal of material is repeated, and the story’s momentum stalls significantly when the narrator changes from Chucho to Shiraz. The book shows a lot of potential—the writing is sound, the setting is intriguing, and the author manages to make this familiar premise seem fresh. Unfortunately, the plot really breaks down at a certain point and never gets moving again.

A promising but unrealized dystopian tale.

Pub Date: May 5, 2014


Page Count: 222

Publisher: Tiny TOE Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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