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By Madeline Bitter
“My heart is a chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones: I love emo kids. As a former emo kid myself, I felt an affinity with the main character Jade in Stephan Graham Jones’ new horror novel. Jade is a high school student trapped in her spooky Idaho town that is quickly unleashed by investors looking to make it a vacation spot for the rich and famous. Jade, a Blackfeet girl living with her abusive father and abandoned by her mother, is obsessed with slasher movies and the dark history of her town. Slasher movies form Jade’s worldview, informing her beliefs in the fallibility of the adults around her and the likelihood of her own survival. The best graduation gift she can think of is an ax murderer coming to town ready to take revenge for every unfair thing that happened to Jade and people like her. Jade, who is so angry and gloomy and determined to take revenge on all the people who wronged her, comes to believe that after a series of mysterious deaths linked to new homes built by millionaires, the film’s formula slasher arrives alive before his eyes. She doesn’t know that she has more potential as a final girl than she thinks. The parallels between classic slasher films and the horror of being a teenage outcast appear frequently throughout the story. What Jade really wants is someone to protect her, instead of always having to fight for her own survival. I think readers will enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of this protagonist.
“The five wounds” by Kirstin Valdez Quade: Families are rarely functional in books. What is so interesting about a group of people who communicate openly and kiss a lot? In “The five plagues” the Valdez are trying. Amédéo is blocked. He’s stuck in the same small town in New Mexico, stuck in his mother’s house when he’s in his thirties. He’s stuck in the cycle of lazy alcoholism and unemployment. When his 15-year-old daughter shows up at his and her mother’s door, pregnant and freshly thrown to the sidewalk by her mother, he suddenly has to try to hold out for someone other than himself. I didn’t think I would like the book at first because I couldn’t stand how ugly Amedeo was. I was happy to read the perspectives of Angel and Yolanda because their situations were more sympathetic. Fortunately, when Angel gives birth to her baby, everyone seems to be trying to do better for themselves and for each other. I came to love the characters, each in their own way, they felt so real and so tender. They try and succeed in loving each other out loud, and sometimes they fail miserably. “The five wounds” is a realistic take on how people present themselves to each other.
“One last stop” by Casey McQuiston: Have you ever fallen in love with a stranger on public transport? If so, then this book is for you. Casey McQuiston does it again in her second novel about a young woman in her twenties named August who moves to New York City to try her hand at her third college degree. August lives in the shadow of his uncle Augie, who disappeared long before he was born and who continues to haunt his family with his absence. August is an expert at hiding her feelings and getting away from others, until she starts renting a room in an apartment full of people who want to smash her icy exterior. She meets Jane in the subway, who still rides in the same car as August. She never sees Jane leave but regularly has charming encounters with her on the Q-line. It turns out that Jane has managed to skip the timelines – she’s frozen in time in the 1970s and she can’t leave. the Subway. August uses his detective skills to unravel Jane’s life and how to get her out of the present. I loved this adorable sci-fi romance with its cast of unique characters and sparkling dialogue. Jane and August fall in love (duh) and have to work around the embarrassing situation of being stuck on a New York subway to be together. “One last stop” is for sci-fi fans, romance gluttons, and people who love the found family cast.
“The Palace of Paper” by Miranda Cowley Heller: “The Palace of Paper” the feeling of having finally arrived at your camp or chalet for the summer season. The relief of being away from a stressful daily routine turns into something more comfortable and animalistic. Eating, sleeping, swimming, seeing friends after a long separation, a summer getaway that we return every time serves as a touchstone to mark the passage of time. “The Palace of Paper” has been the Cape Cod retreat for the protagonist’s family for generations. Since she was a child, she has spent her summers here wandering the woods and swimming in the ponds avoiding the Snapping Turtles.
We are introduced to Elle Bishop as she begins an affair with her childhood best friend and longtime crush, Jonas. She is married and has three children whom she adores. Seems like she’s got it all, but the book slowly reveals to us a childhood of trauma and secrets, making the promises kept between Her and Jonah, Elle and Peter, and Elle and her sister all the more complicated. Loved the descriptions of the Cape Cod palace and landscape. It reminded me so much of the cabin I used to spend almost every weekend as a kid in Wisconsin. I think that the people who have cabins and camps will be strongly connected with the magic of these places which is brought out in the novel.