IN

A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Cartoonist McPhail’s debut graphic novel follows a youngish artist’s desperate search for authenticity in a culture where true selves hide behind performative, perfunctory interactions.

Professional illustrator Nick Moss isn’t sad but wants to be—at least for a night. He’s heard of sad men being sad in sad bars, so he tries on the role for himself, but an attractive young woman named Wren playfully calls him out on his artifice. This meet-cute leads to a fun, steamy, no-strings-attached affair, which weaves through Nick’s everyday struggles to form meaningful connections to his fellow humans—strangers, neighbors, and family alike. Eventually he learns to lean into awkward encounters and finally say something that matters to the other person—transcendent moments that McPhail brings to life by fantastically transporting Nick to vibrant, inspiring vistas for the duration of these fleeting epiphanies. McPhail’s art is exceptional—realistic if impressionistic settings and anatomic figures with cartoonish accents like bug eyes and overemotive gestures. The visuals are scrumptious and the yearning for personal connection is deeply relatable, but the story loses focus with observational bits about pretentious coffee shops and corporate jargon, and the central romantic relationship has a bit too much of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl dynamic to fully resonate. But even when beats feel overly familiar, McPhail presents them with style and grace, deftly moving the story along with subtle, impactful visual cues. Nick isn’t an especially likable character, save for the relatability of his desires, but the eyes McPhail gives him—perfect white circles with pinprick pupils—imbue the awkward and borderline-unpleasant character with the charm of an earnest boob. What more could anyone be when faced with their place in the universe?

Gorgeous navel-gazing.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-34554-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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