Next book

RED SIDE STORY

Likely the most silly-fun you can have with star-crossed lovers fighting the absurdity of an unjust world.

A young couple in the near future dares to lift the curtain on their hierarchical society, which segregates its population based on the colors they can—and can’t—see.

Though it’s been 15 years since Fforde published Shades of Grey (2009), this long-awaited sequel picks up right where things left off. Eddie Russett, a high-seeing Red, is still new to the fringe town of East Carmine, and his infatuation with daredevil Jane Grey, recently dubbed Jane Brunswick for her ability to see a small percentage of Green, is expanding his horizons in more ways than one. While society sees their fraternization as illegal—“It was one of the crueller Rules….If you were on the opposite side of the colour wheel, you’d be compelled to be on nodding terms for the rest of your lives”—Jane has encouraged Eddie not to care. And while it’s ingrained in Eddie to believe that if you question the Colourtocracy, you could die for it, he hasn’t caught the Mildew—the “disease” that suspiciously takes people when they are no longer useful to society—just yet. If he and Jane can bend one rule and survive, what else is not as black-and-white as it seems? If all this has you thinking of West Side Story and its inspiration, Romeo and Juliet, you’re bang on. Puns and references to the world as we know it are numerous, direct, and often absurdly funny, à la Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Fforde expertly interlaces the most serious existential discussions with humor, favoring fun over drama—a most notable, laugh-out-loud example being the consultation of the Parker Brothers’ RISK Map to explore the possibility of there being a Somewhere Else. While this is generally a refreshing spin on the life-after-apocalypse genre, it hasn’t escaped a mild case of middle-book syndrome. The hyperfixation on dismantling the corrupt Colourtocracy makes the plot feel more formulaic as it builds toward the big revelation, undoubtedly setting up the final act.

Likely the most silly-fun you can have with star-crossed lovers fighting the absurdity of an unjust world.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781641296281

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

Next book

ALL FOURS

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

A woman set to embark on a cross-country road trip instead drives to a nearby motel and becomes obsessed with a local man.

According to Harris, the husband of the narrator of July’s novel, everyone in life is either a Parker or a Driver. “Drivers,” Harris says, “are able to maintain awareness and engagement even when life is boring.” The narrator knows she’s a Parker, someone who needs “a discrete task that seems impossible, something…for which they might receive applause.” For the narrator, a “semi-famous” bisexual woman in her mid-40s living in Los Angeles, this task is her art; it’s only by haphazard chance that she’s fallen into a traditional straight marriage and motherhood. When the narrator needs to be in New York for work, she decides on a solo road trip as a way of forcing herself to be more of a metaphorical Driver. She makes it all of 30 minutes when, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she pulls over in Monrovia. After encountering a man who wipes her windows at a gas station and then chats with her at the local diner, she checks in to a motel, where she begins an all-consuming intimacy with him. For the first time in her life, she feels truly present. But she can only pretend to travel so long before she must go home and figure out how to live the rest of a life that she—that any woman in midlife—has no map for. July’s novel is a characteristically witty, startlingly intimate take on Dante’s “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood”—if the dark wood were the WebMD site for menopause and a cheap room at the Excelsior Motel.

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593190265

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

Next book

THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Close Quickview