This novel’s uneven focus detracts from its fresh voice and important expansion of narratives about adoption.

INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER

A transracially adopted girl struggles during high school and college.

Rowan Kelly, adopted from Korea by Catholic parents from Long Island, has never known another home. And yet, her classmates and community identify her by her differences, though she knows nothing of her birthparents or Korean culture. Rowan is confronted with this disconnect on her first day of kindergarten when she’s asked why she doesn’t look like her mother, and another child replies that it was because her "real mommy...didn’t want [her].” These words plant a deep-seated fear in Rowan that she has never really been wanted by anyone, not her birth mother or her parents (who adopted after failed fertility treatments). Rowan’s relationship with her mother grows ever more tumultuous, and in true teenage fashion, she can't convey her fear of abandonment. Once she moves to college, Rowan cuts off all contact with her family after her boyfriend becomes abusive, the beginning of years of  isolation from everyone around her as she flunks out of school. This debut novel vividly details the awkwardness of high school and heartbreak of rejection. Rowan's first-person narrative voice provides sharp, devastating emotional insight in recalling these moments. Yet the novel opens with Rowan’s implying to a nurse that she was raped, a long hospital scene that is woven throughout the length of the book in between Rowan’s life stories. It's hard to know how to respond to these scenes, as Rowan’s emotional healing and reckoning with her decisions are told quickly rather than as part of the story. This is a significantly felt absence, especially given the serious nature of these scenes and the extended focus on her most traumatizing years.

This novel’s uneven focus detracts from its fresh voice and important expansion of narratives about adoption.

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61775-709-9

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Kaylie Jones/Akashic

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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

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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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