A slow-burning, palpably grim dystopian tale.



This post-apocalyptic debut sees a young woman with a past on the trail of a missing person.

The Decline has crippled the world. Rooted in global warming, the phenomenon encompasses humanity’s failure to cope with savage weather, food and water shortages, mosquito plagues, and diseases like the West Nile virus running amok. Samarra is from the barren South—a place requiring mental and physical discipline called Seira—but her new friends in the chaotic North think she’s from nearby Kanlan. Among the Vauns, who protect their own, she’s a drudge who travels around the Barrow, a half-flooded and trash-strewn city, to collect items from her group’s network of contacts. Sam is also friends with Ava, a woman whose daughter, Raina, could be missing or dead. Ava allows the Southerner to stay with her at an abandoned factory and use Raina’s boots and bed. One day, Sam discusses with Jackal, a fellow Vaun, how people often leave their lives behind on the solstice, hoping to start fresh elsewhere. Jackal suggests that Raina bolted with Finlay, her boyfriend. Later, members of the compound—Sam, Jackal, Hakuund, and twins Cassio and Xenia—visit a “party spot” called the Hive, where people enjoy music, gambling, and drinks. After a fire breaks out at the club and they barely escape, Sam’s dreams about her life in the South grow more intense. A sense of loss and failure surrounds a man named Corvus, and Sam begins to realize that finding Raina may mitigate the tragedy that her life has become. In this dour, atmospheric series opener, Lee explores how both the North and South cope with a ruined planet. In the North, stark environmental devastation haunts lines like “There was a mutation and the beetle’s appetite expanded to include other types of softwoods. Then came a second mutation and the hardwoods began to die.” Yet humanity perseveres, finding solace at card tables and drum circles, where “it was loud and damp and bordering on painful, but it was beautiful, and beauty was rare.” The author alternates chapters of Sam’s search for Raina with the protagonist’s Southern past as a child of the Administration. Militarized training centers keep reading, writing, and arithmetic alive while instilling a harsh code of conduct. Protector Gin, for example, tells cadets excited by guns to “prove that you can be trusted with a blade, and maybe you’ll get a projectile.” While these moments further darken the tale, reminding readers of a United States obsessed with the Second Amendment, the South’s “annual contests” are colorful shoutouts to genre favorites like The Hunger Games. Sam’s mission to locate Raina is slow to develop, though realistic in the way that she wakes to an inner conflict, summarized by the line “You think you can do one good thing one time for somebody else and it’ll erase what you did?” The truth behind Raina’s fate touches on another modern-day dilemma—one that hits women the hardest—and the sequel should anchor much of the worldbuilding done in the South.

A slow-burning, palpably grim dystopian tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77359-291-0

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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