Fans of Younger are better off waiting for the show to return to the small screen.

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OLDER

In the sequel to Younger (2005), now a popular TV series, former publishing professional Liza Miller finds herself grappling with what it really means to be older.

Liza is about to turn 50, but she's still dealing with the effects of the years she spent pretending to be younger. Readers meet Liza two years after the events of the first book, now sequestered at a cabin in Maine. Thanks to her daughter Caitlin’s pregnancy, Liza is preparing to return to New York City, but this time with no home, no job, and no romantic prospects. That is, until Liza’s friend and former co-worker Kelsey—now working in Hollywood—decides she wants to turn Liza’s thinly veiled novel, Younger, into a TV series. This is when things start to get meta—real-life Younger stars Sutton Foster and Debi Mazar are mentioned as prospective cast members, blurring the lines between reality and fiction in a way fans will find amusing. Of course, the book goes a different route, picking flighty fictional actress Stella Power to play Liza and international superstar Hugo Fielding to play her male boss, allowing these two new characters to become the catalysts for much of the book’s personal and professional drama. But as Liza attempts to balance shooting the series with caring for Caitlin, figuring out her growing feelings for Hugo, and examining her continuing attraction to ex-boyfriend Josh, it can feel like the book is simultaneously doing too much and not enough. The plot wades into issues of motherhood, career, and aging but never dives in fully, and attempts at lighthearted moments like Liza’s ill-advised use of hallucinogenic mushrooms feel out of place.

Fans of Younger are better off waiting for the show to return to the small screen.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982142-94-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

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ANXIOUS PEOPLE

Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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