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MONDAY'S NOT COMING is at once the most gorgeous and devastating pageturner you'll read this year. It's a little too intense to read in one sitting (you'll want to slow the pace), but you won't be able to put it down for long. It's that good.
The novel is, in its simplest form, the story of a friendship. Claudia and Monday were inseparable up until the year Monday disappeared. After a summer away, Claudia can't find her best friend anywhere: she's not in school nor at her house, and not one other person seems to notice her absence. Wracked with grief and confusion, Claudia pursues every lead to find Monday, even as her obsession with discovering the truth diminishes her own grip on reality.
Jackson's second novel is as suspenseful and addictive as her first (Allegedly), again demonstrating the author's remarkable ability to bring complex characters to life despite their tendencies to obscure parts of their lives from each other, readers, and themselves. Although some of the story's subject matter is bleak (i.e. abuse, poverty, gentrification, trauma), Claudia's search for Monday is largely underpinned by themes of family, love, and hope: showcasing Claudia's strength in the face of immense darkness. —Aubrey Restifo
Before she became entangled in Nazi-occupied France in Code Name Verity, Julie Beaufort-Stuart survived a long summer of trouble at her grandfather's falling-apart Scottish estate. As her childhood home fills with builders intent on major renovations, Julie flees the home only to land unconscious in a hospital with little memory to spare. But as her memory comes back, Julie realizes that she has witnessed the final moments of a murdered man's life—and an overlooked act of theft that only someone who loves the land would have noticed. Propelled by an expertly-crafted mystery, Wein's prelude to "Verity" showcases Julie's fierce character with delicious little nods to what fans will remember with nostalgia. ~Reviewed by Aubrey Restifo
If given the choice, few would name the snail as their favorite animal: neither fast nor vicious, the snail tends to be little else than a curiosity, a slimy acquaintance relegated to the garden. In Dashka Slater’s (The Sea Serpent and Me; Dangerously Ever After) picture book Escargot, however, one precocious snail hopes to leverage the species into the reader’s heart by confronting assumptions about snails as both reader and snail “race” to the end of the book.
Escargot meets readers at a mollusk’s eye level in its opening pages. (Read More...)
Beck recounts the story of a biracial orphan who lives in a constant state of upheaval. After being transferred from one horrible orphanage to one horrible monastery, Beck seeks solace as a drifter—taking odd jobs as they come, and eating only enough not to starve. Like Peet's other works, Beck endures and transforms in many ways over the course of his life: although the story begins during Beck's dark childhood, the novel concludes in his uncertain adult years—right as he discovers love. Yet the long arc of Beck's existence is punctuated by memories better erased than kept, moments that readers will question and ponder long after his story's end. Sophisticated readers familiar with Peet, fans of historical fiction, and readers of all ages prepared for complex emotions and adult themes will embrace Beck as one of the best books of the year. ~Reviewed by Aubrey Restifo
If you missed Zentner's exquisite, award-winning debut (The Serpent King), Goodbye Days is the kind of book that propels readers to devour everything else the author has ever written. After sending a text to a car-full of friends, Carver must deal with conflicting feelings of guilt and confusion when the driver attempts to message back and subsequently totals the car—leaving no survivors. Beyond the ambiguous legal consequences, Carver finds himself returning to school as an enemy, not only friendless and suffering but also deemed a killer by many of his teachers and peers alike. From the immense sadness of the protagonist's loss to the cathartic, not-always-redeeming "goodbye day" events that prefigure real closure, Zentner's new novel is one that resounds so powerfully that you cannot read it in more than a few sittings. This is a truly profound meditation on the not-so-simple relationship between actions and consequences. ~Reviewed by Aubrey Restifo