A gritty, expansive coming-of-age novel filled with sex and violence that manages to be tender, even wryly hopeful.


Winner of the Prix Goncourt in France, Mathieu's first novel to be translated into English follows three teenagers and their families through four summers in an economically depressed valley far removed from Paris.

It's 1992, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the song of the moment, and 14-year-old Anthony Casati is obsessed with the thought of topless girls. He and his cousin steal a canoe and paddle to the fabled nude beach across the local lake. His chance encounter there has far-reaching consequences for him, a wealthy girl named Stéphanie Chaussoy, and an immigrant boy named Hacine Bouali. Told in four sections, each unfolding over another summer, the novel details the torpor and hopelessness of a deindustrialized valley where children deal hashish and shoot their BB guns at the rusting carcasses of blast furnaces. Mathieu captures the vulnerability and awkwardness of adolescence with painful acuity as the teenagers struggle to find their ways in the world. But his interest extends further, to their families and the place itself; characters and setting are inextricable, as the book's best writing reveals. "In midafternoon, a diffuse numbness took hold of the projects....The towers themselves seemed ready to collapse, swaying in the waves of heat. Every so often, the howl of a tricked-out motorbike would slash through the silence....The boys felt sluggish and hateful." In the bar that Anthony's alcoholic father frequents: "People drank in silence until 5 o'clock, and more energetically afterward. Depending on their temperament, they then got sick, funny, or mean." The conflict between Anthony and Hacine has its roots in the valley's poverty and racism. In one of several vicious attacks, a punch "carried ancient pains and frustrations. It was a fist heavy with misery and missed chances, a ton of misspent living." Mathieu's sympathy for his characters is cleareyed and generous, and the final section—showing the entire valley caught up in World Cup soccer fever as the French team competes for a place in the finals—is surprisingly moving.

A gritty, expansive coming-of-age novel filled with sex and violence that manages to be tender, even wryly hopeful.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-89274-677-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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