A coming-of-age story that deals honestly with sensitive topics.

STILLWATER

A tween girl and her friends confront small-town troubles in Hazard’s novel.

Despite its name, the town of Stillwater in upstate New York has some turbulent undercurrents. Twelve-year-old Grace Bryant and her friend Maggie Miller have a creepy encounter with their Catholic school’s janitor, who grabs one of them in a boiler room, and though some adults bizarrely blame the girls for what happened, the school’s priest has him fired. The girls, along with their other friend, Louanne Dodd, also have troubles at home. Grace’s father died when she was 8, and she misses him terribly. Both Maggie and her mother keep getting injuries that they blame on accidents, but the real cause may be Mr. Miller. Louanne’s parents are divorcing (“My dad doesn’t love me enough to stay,” Louanne tells Grace), and Grace is shocked to discover the true cause of her own father’s death. The town is plagued by arsons, and Louanne’s Uncle Tony—who’s either schizophrenic or suffering from brain damage—is a prime suspect despite a lack of direct evidence. Grace doesn’t believe he did it and devotes herself to finding who’s really at fault. In her first book for adults, Hazard deals sensitively with her adolescent characters as they gain maturity and negotiate the lies, secrets, and deep flaws of the adult world. The arson story is a compelling central point around which the rest of the story revolves, giving Grace and her friends the opportunity to practice observing and evaluating the people around them. Some plot points feel too pat, such as Mr. Miller’s quick redemption, and Tony is overly reminiscent of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, but overall, the novel is thoughtful and captures Grace’s perspective well.

A coming-of-age story that deals honestly with sensitive topics.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68401-928-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Mascot Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2020

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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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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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LEGACY

Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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