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BEAUTYLAND

A heartbreaking book that staggers with both truth and beauty.

A coming-of-age story in which the main character is, literally, out of this world.

In Northeast Philadelphia, in the Earth year 1977, Adina Giorno is born to a woman destined to be a single mother. The baby is too small, and her mother, observing her under the hospital phototherapy lamp, thinks she looks “other than human. Plant or marine life, maybe. An orchid or otter. A shrimp.” One reason for this might be the lamp’s unearthly blue-green light, or the fact that the baby is early and the mother traumatized by her difficult birth. Another might be the fact that Adina is actually otherworldly, an alien life form from a planet 300,000 light-years away, sent to infiltrate human society and “take notes.” This Adina does assiduously all throughout her childhood and adolescence in 1980s and '90s Philadelphia, where she lives with her Earth mother in a poor, ethnically Italian neighborhood that is slowly sinking into the toxic ground on which it was built. The notes themselves—winsome observations on the nature of the creatures that surround her (animal, vegetable, and, most mysteriously, human)—are sent via a fax machine Adina’s Earth mother scavenges from the trash and sets up in her bedroom. Adina’s extraterrestrial superiors return encouragement via interstellar fax and offer occasional instruction through telepathic dreams that take place in their best approximation of what an Earth classroom might look like. As Adina grows and her circle of influence widens to include her tough but loving mother, her iconoclastic friend Toni and Toni’s film-buff brother Dominic, enemies, loves, false friends, and the other characters of a well-rounded Earth existence, Adina becomes more and more aware of how different she feels from her Earthling friends, even as her life follows the pattern of their joys and sorrows. A compelling, touching story that weds Bertino’s masterful eye for the poignant detail of the everyday with her equally virtuosic flair as a teller of the tallest kinds of tales—so tall, in this case, they are interplanetary.

A heartbreaking book that staggers with both truth and beauty.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780374109288

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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JAMES

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as told from the perspective of a more resourceful and contemplative Jim than the one you remember.

This isn’t the first novel to reimagine Twain’s 1885 masterpiece, but the audacious and prolific Everett dives into the very heart of Twain’s epochal odyssey, shifting the central viewpoint from that of the unschooled, often credulous, but basically good-hearted Huck to the more enigmatic and heroic Jim, the Black slave with whom the boy escapes via raft on the Mississippi River. As in the original, the threat of Jim’s being sold “down the river” and separated from his wife and daughter compels him to run away while figuring out what to do next. He's soon joined by Huck, who has faked his own death to get away from an abusive father, ramping up Jim’s panic. “Huck was supposedly murdered and I’d just run away,” Jim thinks. “Who did I think they would suspect of the heinous crime?” That Jim can, as he puts it, “[do] the math” on his predicament suggests how different Everett’s version is from Twain’s. First and foremost, there's the matter of the Black dialect Twain used to depict the speech of Jim and other Black characters—which, for many contemporary readers, hinders their enjoyment of his novel. In Everett’s telling, the dialect is a put-on, a manner of concealment, and a tactic for survival. “White folks expect us to sound a certain way and it can only help if we don’t disappoint them,” Jim explains. He also discloses that, in violation of custom and law, he learned to read the books in Judge Thatcher’s library, including Voltaire and John Locke, both of whom, in dreams and delirium, Jim finds himself debating about human rights and his own humanity. With and without Huck, Jim undergoes dangerous tribulations and hairbreadth escapes in an antebellum wilderness that’s much grimmer and bloodier than Twain’s. There’s also a revelation toward the end that, however stunning to devoted readers of the original, makes perfect sense.

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9780385550369

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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