A surprisingly easy read containing a little romance, a lot of personal growth, and an honest look at weighty topics.

READ REVIEW

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF GOING DARK

A social media influencer goes through a self-imposed electronics detox while another woman hacks into her online identity in an attempt to distract a family member from thoughts of suicide.

Through Mia Bell’s hard work, @Mia&Mike has become a very, very successful brand. Pictey—a social media app akin to an Instagram/Facebook/Twitter mashup—is her platform, and half a million followers await her near-continuous posts and comments. As Pictey has grown from a startup to an offices-in-168-nations behemoth, so has she, evolving from the struggling owner of a small yoga studio to a well-known motivational influencer. However, in quick succession, Mia’s fiance breaks up with her, she hides that fact from her followers, and she fakes her Colorado wedding. Realizing what she has become, she then throws her phone over a cliff to separate herself completely from the account. Paige Miller, on the other hand, is a very well-paid Pictey standards enforcement and quality assurance team member medicating away her debilitating panic attacks. When Paige’s half sister, Jessica, comments on one of Mia’s posts with suicidal thoughts and follows through with a suicide attempt, a series of against-the-odds coincidences lead Paige to Jessica’s side in Colorado and the problematic decision to hack into Mia’s unusually silent account to impersonate her. Author Harms (The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, 2019, etc.) deals openly and honestly with depression, the aftereffects of attempted suicide, and the benefits of medical treatment. Refreshingly, each character is a true-to-life individual with complicated emotions and unique voices. Most readers will be pleased that the storylines wrap up with grand moments and gestures so that hope and joyfulness in the future are the final notes of this tale; some, on the other hand, might find it overly tidy.

A surprisingly easy read containing a little romance, a lot of personal growth, and an honest look at weighty topics.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2091-6

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE

After facing tragedy and betrayal in New York, an aspiring fashion designer escapes to her idyllic Pacific coast hometown to raise her best friend’s two young children and finds inspiration, redemption, and love in the unexpected journey.

Caroline Shelby always dreamed of leaving tiny Oysterville, Washington, and becoming a couturier. After years of toil, she finally has a big break only to discover a famous designer has stolen her launch line. When she accuses him, he blackballs her, so she’s already struggling when her best friend, Angelique, a renowned model from Haiti whose work visa has expired, shows up on her doorstep with her two biracial children, running from an abusive partner she won’t identify. When Angelique dies of a drug overdose, Caroline takes custody of the kids and flees back to her hometown. She reconnects with her sprawling family and with Will and Sierra Jensen, who were once her best friends, though their relationships have grown more complicated since Will and Sierra married. Caroline feels guilty that she didn’t realize Angelique was abused and tries to make a difference when she discovers that people she knows in Oysterville are also victims of domestic violence. She creates a support group that becomes a welcome source of professional assistance when some designs she works on for the kids garner local interest that grows regional, then national. Meanwhile, restless Sierra pursues her own dreams, leading to Will and Caroline’s exploring some unresolved feelings. Wiggs’ latest is part revenge fantasy and part romantic fairy tale, and while some details feel too smooth—how fortunate that every person in the circle has some helpful occupation that benefits Caroline's business—Caroline has a challenging road, and she rises to it with compassion and resilience. Timelines alternating among the present and past, both recent and long ago, add tension and depth to a complex narrative that touches on the abuse of power toward women and the extra-high stakes when the women involved are undocumented. Finally, Wiggs writes about the children’s race and immigration status with a soft touch that feels natural and easygoing but that might seem unrealistic to some readers.

A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242558-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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