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I Take You.
Kennedy, Eliza (author).
May 2015. 320p. Crown, hardcover, $24 (9780553417821); Crown, e-book (9780553417838).
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
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ALICE IN WONDERLAND HIGH
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)
becomes a med student after suffering a near-fatal attack by the titular Toro,
but the past has an odd way of resurfacing.
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.
light on criminal and bureaucratic complexities
in an unusual, poignant narrative that would benefit from a more polished style.
RIDING IN CARS WITH GIRLS
characters find violence—or dispatch it—behind the wheel in Jennings’ (Generic Airport Thriller,
2014, etc.) collection of crime-noir tales.
“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.
smashing, original collection likely to be read again and again.