Endless clever details and suspenseful plotting make this speculative-fiction debut an addictive treat.

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FOLLOWERS

How far will our addiction to screens and our obsession with social media go? And how much will we pay for it?

The bill is large indeed in Angelo’s first novel. In alternating narratives beginning in 2015 and 2051, she creates two chilling versions of celebrity culture in techno-hell. It all starts with a post on a website called Lady-ish written by staff blogger Orla Cadden. “Sooo What Does The World’s Most Expensive Brow Gel Actually Do? One Instagram It Girl Finds Out” is the first of a series of pieces Orla concocts (down to scrubbing the writing off a tube of Maybelline for the photo shoot) to boost the profile of a wannabe Kardashian type—actually her roommate, Floss, whose drive to be famous in the absence of any talent or notable quality runs over everything in sight for the course of the novel. In the 2051 plot, we meet Marlow, a young wife in Constellation, California, a closed town populated with government-selected celebrities devoted entirely to the production of a reality show watched by everyone who does not live there. “Is it me or does Mar have kinda chubby armpits,” asks one of Marlow’s more than 12 million followers, watching her stretch before getting out of bed in the morning. “NOOOOOOO NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH ANOTHER PILL AD—PUT THE MARLOW FLAMINGO SMACKDOWN BACK ON!!!!!” screams another when Marlow gets upset with her network-issued storyline and throws a fit. Both the 2015 and 2051 plots revolve around a mysterious event called the Spill, which feels somewhat less original and interesting than the buildup to its reveal. However, the joy of the details continues all the way to a denouement in Atlantis (formerly Atlantic City), where the relationships we have begun to suspect between the characters of the two plotlines are untangled and confirmed.

Endless clever details and suspenseful plotting make this speculative-fiction debut an addictive treat.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-525-83626-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Graydon House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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