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I Take You.

Kennedy, Eliza (author).
May 2015. 320p. Crown, hardcover, $24 (9780553417821); Crown, e-book (9780553417838).
REVIEW. First published April 15, 2015 (Booklist). New York attorney Lily Wilder is getting married in a week. On paper, she has a life many women aspire to: a fantastic career, a fast-paced life in Manhattan, and Will, a sexy, doting fiancé. But Lily has one big problem: she can’t seem to stay faithful to Will, who proposed to her mere months after they met. When Lily flies to her childhood home in the Florida Keys the week before the wedding, she finds her family is similarly skeptical of her ability to settle down with Will. Lily’s mother and two ex-stepmothers do their best to try to talk Lily out of her plans, and Lily wavers back and forth, trying to work out if she loves Will enough to truly commit to him, while she contends with a challenging deposition and the reappearance of a childhood friend. What appears at the outset to be standard chick-lit fare turns into a smart and challenging examination of gender politics and the meaning of marriage in the twenty-first century. While Kennedy’s compulsively readable debut is sure to be controversial, it should also ignite productive conversations about traditional gender roles and stereotypes.— Kristine Huntley

School Library Journal

Washington Library Media Association Releases Op-Ed: “Look in School Libraries for Graduation Rates”
Two Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) presidents, future and current, have written an op-ed article urging the public to take WLMA’s new impact study, connecting student achievement with teacher librarians, very seriously.

Be Part Of The Solution | SLJ Spotlight
Three standout nonfiction titles spotlight social justice causes.

Common Sense Education Launches Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Gaming Platform
Digital Compass, a choose-your-own-adventure gaming platform, aims to teach middle school students about the opportunities and pitfalls of the digital world.

Library Journal

Poetry Rat | French on Fridays
Spring brings out the rat poet in me.

The Latest from Greg Iles, Norah Vincent on Virginia Woolf, an Unconventional Kate Walbert | Fiction Reviews, April 15, 2015
Best-selling author Iles superbly blends past and present in his swift and riveting story line, a beautifully written and penetrating re-creation of the life of Virginia Woolf, Walbert presents vivid imagery and passages of pure poetry.

New Authors Alvar, Clifford, Drager, Ohanesian, Walker, & Many Others | Debut Fiction, April 15, 2015
Alvar's narratives straddle multiple countries and cultures, 25-year police veteran Griffin debuts a well-written and action-packed crime thriller, Papernick offers persuasive insights into the nature of fanaticism, Walker's story pops.

Kirkus Reviews

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The beloved children’s classic is reimagined as a teen treatise on environmental activism.

After Alice’s parents die in a car accident on the way to protest farmland rezoning in Wonderland, Illinois, she vows to keep their ideals alive by staging her own actions. After a failed solo attempt to steal school letterhead and donate it to the recycling center, Alice decides to join forces with a vigilante eco-group whose members resemble the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat. Together, they vandalize private property and homes in the name of environmentalism, rescue a pig from experimentation, and investigate why Wonderland township is forcing family farmers off their land and building housing complexes. At least, that’s what they seem to be investigating. The overwritten prose is so densely populated with self-conscious similes and metaphors it is often difficult to follow the convoluted plot. Far too many actions and statements are repeated in greater detail in the following paragraph, to the point where readers may feel they’re being told over and over what just happened. Finally, the author is so busy making the characters painfully and obviously conform to their literary counterparts that any spark of personality or characterization is squashed. What is left is a message-y, cliché-ridden mishmash that neither breaks new ground nor pays homage to its inspiration. 

Leave this novel at the bottom of the rabbit hole. (Fiction. 10-13)

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A stripper becomes a med student after suffering a near-fatal attack by the titular Toro, but the past has an odd way of resurfacing.

As a single mother to two, Allie Parsons pays the bills by stripping and blows off steam by taking home handsome strangers. Unfortunately, one of those blue-eyed strangers turns out to be Toro, a serial killer who gouges out Allie’s left eye before she accidentally fatally shoots her son and scares Toro off. Allie’s mother, Bea, who has never approved of her daughter’s lifestyle, attempts to seize custody of Allie’s daughter as soon as she’s out of the hospital. However, Allie rallies after the attack and retains custody of her daughter; eventually, Allie attains a medical degree and a job in the coroner’s office. She thinks Toro has been captured and killed when her supervisor, Dr. Leopold Mann, explains that he worked on the case and successfully identified the body, but then she receives a strange note on her car windshield that uncomfortably reminds her of her attacker. Is Toro still on the loose? More importantly, is the past ever really buried or only paused? Although Schwalbe’s prose has a fair number of clichés—“Despite being bone-tired, she couldn’t sleep”—the plotting is unusual, the character relationships atypical. While the novel lacks the gravitas and nuanced character studies of, say, a James Ellroy novel, the gritty situations and unusual attention to medical details (Schwalbe is a real-life anesthesiologist) help distinguish it from run-of-the-mill thrillers. Allie is a complex woman somewhat hampered by the on-the-nose prose she’s wrapped in: “Allie, listen to me. I’ve watched you since you were old enough to toddle around the nursery. You’re one of the most intelligent and kindest people I’ve ever seen. Your mother told me you scored in the genius range on those IQ tests.” Still, her unusual life story and responses to challenging situations make her a noteworthy, fully fleshed-out heroine who, despite the difficulties, manages to pull off some hard-earned triumphs.

Shines a light on criminal and bureaucratic complexities in an unusual, poignant narrative that would benefit from a more polished style.

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Disenchanted characters find violence—or dispatch it—behind the wheel in Jennings’ (Generic Airport Thriller, 2014, etc.) collection of crime-noir tales.

In “Firebird,” the book’s opening story, Dorothy is a woman running from something. In the small Texas town where she befriends a cocktail waitress, the only thing of significance is a raging, monthlong fire that seems to be in her path. This sets the tone for the five stories that follow, all led by female characters with dark pasts or secrets lives and bleak, brutal futures. Alex, for instance, helps Nikki escape her pimp boyfriend in “911,” but Alex herself is fleeing dangerous people looking to retaliate for a murder she committed. The women dabble quite a bit in bullets, blood, and sharp objects, but Jennings avoids a strictly feminist interpretation. It’s true that men are often targets for revenge or sources of turmoil, but there are numerous female antagonists, as in “Escort,” which pits prostitute Ruthie—who inadvertently killed a gangster during sex—against female bodyguard and surveillance expert Bex. Jennings offsets the book’s somber ambience by dropping touches of lightheartedness, starting with the playful titles: “Audi” features deaf-mute teenager/car-thief Wendy. There’s likewise a strong noirish vibe running throughout, as sharp dialogue and brief chapters make the narratives zoom past like speeding cars. Strength here is indisputable, but it isn’t always physical: Ruthie surprises everyone by effortlessly evading gangsters, and the unnamed narrator in “Trans Am” does crystal meth just to help her chase down husband-killer Katie, who’s on the run. Sex is, rather appropriately, more a sober affair than erotic. In “Crown Victoria,” the book’s final and perhaps best story, the protagonist (whose sex is intentionally vague) and companion Winona are tragic characters—the latter desperate for love, the former denying it—whose recurring bouts of spanking and submission give the acts a much more profound meaning than mere fun.

A smashing, original collection likely to be read again and again.

<April 2015>