A novel that captures the emotional intensity, confusion, and quickness of adolescence.

JUSTINE

It’s the summer of 1999: Kate Moss and Katie Holmes grace magazine covers as Ali, a Long Island teenager, encounters Justine, a checkout girl at the local Stop & Shop who’s almost as tall and thin as a cover girl herself.

Drawn to Justine's real-life glamour, Ali gets a job at the supermarket, and she and Justine become fast friends, or so she thinks. Justine goes from showing Ali the ropes at the store to roping her into risky adolescent behavior, from shoplifting and trespassing to restricting calories and purging. Ali is thrilled to oblige. When they’re not working, she and Justine share intimate moments of female friendship—putting on makeup, sunbathing, and getting drunk. Justine, her boyfriend, Chris, and his friend Ryan live in a posher neighborhood and attend a fancier high school than Ali, but she’s welcomed into their clique for as long as she’s willing to worship Justine’s ways. This is Harmon’s debut novel, and she also provides illustrations; she's done an impeccable job re-creating a very particular moment in time, exploring what it felt like to be a teenage girl when the beauty ideal for women grew to maddening heights. Though there was no social media, the expectations for how women should look were no less ubiquitous than they are now. Harmon’s words and illustrations together show how pervasive and seductive these images were, especially for still-developing minds. While the novel is short on resolution, it’s a propulsive depiction of what a summer in the New York suburbs felt like before iPhones and what a crush can drive someone to do. “Justine took my hand and threaded our fingers together,” Ali says. “I smiled sideways, feeling a weird, tense pleasure, my attention stretched taut between Ryan and Justine like a jump rope being pulled from either side.” Being a teenager is rife with tension, and Harmon confronts the subtle and not-so-subtle violence of coming-of-age.

A novel that captures the emotional intensity, confusion, and quickness of adolescence.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951142-33-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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