A rich and rigorous dissection of how we construct who we are.

TOPICS OF CONVERSATION

An unnamed narrator navigates female identity—her own and in general—through a series of conversations that span the course of 20 years in Popkey’s painfully sharp debut.

Popkey begins in Italy. Our narrator, a grad student in English, is spending August on vacation with a more glamorous friend’s family, earning her keep minding their 7-year-old twins. One night, the mother, an Argentinian psychoanalyst, recounts her own romantic history, a lesson in the gendered dynamics of power. But what captivates our narrator is the woman’s certainty, her belief in her own story. “I, at twenty-one, did not, had not yet settled on the governing narrative of my life. Had not yet realized the folly of governing narratives,” she recalls. This is the question that propels the novel; it is a book of ideas—about power and gender, about desire, about loneliness and rage—but it is also, at its core, a novel about storytelling, about the quest for a stable narrative that can explain us to others and to ourselves. Ten years later, at an art exhibit in San Francisco—the work is by a Swedish video artist whose subject is “female pain”—our narrator and a friend discuss heartbreak with detached cruelty. This is the underlying premise of their relationship, that they are both bad people; or at least, that is the story they tell themselves and so the story that unites them. Two years after that, in Los Angeles, divorced, the narrator is armed with another story to explain her behavior to herself: “that I have been, that I continue to be, best at being a vessel for the desire of others.” The first sections of the novel are incisive, often biting, but mannered, as though the narrator’s own oppressive self-consciousness has rubbed off on the prose. But halfway through, at a mommy group in Fresno, the novel takes a turn, going from cool to coolly wrenching, as Popkey layers something like tenderness.

A rich and rigorous dissection of how we construct who we are.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65628-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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MAYBE SOMEDAY

Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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