Intriguing, suspenseful, sometimes frustrating; an eerily timeless story.

A SMALL REVOLUTION

In this compact debut novel, a young woman receives a swift education in love, violence, and the politics of 1980s Korea.

Yoona’s childhood as a first-generation Korean-American was a quiet attempt at normalcy, streaked with guilt, the result of her father’s frequent physical abuse of her mother (and Yoona’s sense that she should have done something to protect her). The summer before Yoona leaves her small New York hometown to attend college, she participates in a multiweek student tour of South Korea, where she meets Jaesung and Lloyd, two Korean-American boys with strong political convictions. Though she is wary of emotional attachment, Yoona falls hard for Jaesung and warms to the unsettlingly radical Lloyd. She is rewarded cruelly for both. Upon starting her freshman year of college, Yoona learns that Jaesung and Lloyd, on their way to a meeting, were in a car accident; Jaesung was killed. Lloyd returns to the States, unhinged, and embroils Yoona in his fantasy: that Jaesung is still alive, captured by militants, and in need of rescue. Yoona participates in the fantasy for some time, but when she finally tries to distance herself from Lloyd, he holds her and three friends hostage in her dorm room at gunpoint. This hostage situation is, in fact, the frame for the entire novel, and it’s not just the horrible suspense in that room that gives the story tension. Han keeps the lens tight on Yoona’s increasingly shaky perspective, so despite Yoona’s strangely adult, calm narration, facts become unreliable and greater contextualization slippery, if present at all. In the background are the clashes between Korean and American cultures; North and South Korean politics; teenage idealism and the heartbreaking adult world.

Intriguing, suspenseful, sometimes frustrating; an eerily timeless story.

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5039-3973-8

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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