An unconventional love story for independent women.

BAD LUCK BRIDESMAID

After repeatedly serving as a bridesmaid in weddings that don't end up happening, a woman starts to worry she’s cursed.

Zoey Marks doesn’t believe in marriage, because she’s not sure it ever works out. At least, it doesn’t seem to work out when she’s involved. After being a bridesmaid for two brides who never made it down the aisle, she couldn’t be less interested in getting engaged herself. Especially not when she has her high-powered job running a nontraditional advertising agency with her friend Sara (one of the brides whose weddings Zoey may have cursed). But then she meets Rylan, her lifelong best friend Hannah’s cousin. Zoey quickly falls passionately in love with Rylan, enough to make her possibly think about questioning her anti-marriage stance. That is, until she’s in yet another wedding that ends before it begins. When Rylan proposes right after Zoey gets back home from the third wedding that wasn’t, Zoey turns him down, unable to promise a forever she can’t truly believe in. Wallowing in heartbreak, Zoey’s one comfort is that at least she won’t have to see Rylan again…that is, until Hannah announces that she’s getting married in Ireland, and she wants Zoey by her side. Rylan will be there, and now Zoey has to juggle seeing him, making sure Hannah’s wedding survives Zoey’s bridesmaid curse, and trying to figure out if she can commit to forever and the future she so desperately wants with Rylan. But the wedding weekend is full of secrets, betrayals, and a scheming best man, and Zoey’s afraid that both she and Hannah might not be headed for a happily-ever-after. Zoey’s narration is quick, clever, and full of zingers, but Greenberg often uses that narration to tell the reader things about Zoey’s relationship with Rylan rather than showing their love develop, which makes it difficult to become invested in them as a couple. The story is much more surprising and boldly messy than the cute cover implies, and readers who aren’t looking for a traditional romantic-comedy structure may relate to Zoey’s quest for happiness and her understanding that it can be found in places other than wedding ceremonies.

An unconventional love story for independent women.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2507-9159-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS

An earnest grad student and a faculty member with a bit of a jerkish reputation concoct a fake dating scheme in this nerdy, STEM-filled contemporary romance.

Olive Smith and professor Adam Carlsen first met in the bathroom of Adam's lab. Olive wore expired contact lenses, reducing her eyes to temporary tears, while Adam just needed to dispose of a solution. It's a memory that only one of them has held onto. Now, nearly three years later, Olive is fully committed to her research in pancreatic cancer at Stanford University's biology department. As a faculty member, Adam's reputation precedes him, since he's made many students cry or drop their programs entirely with his bluntness. When Olive needs her best friend, Anh, to think she's dating someone so Anh will feel more comfortable getting involved with Olive's barely-an-ex, Jeremy, she impulsively kisses Adam, who happens to be standing there when Anh walks by. But rumors start to spread, and the one-time kiss morphs into a fake relationship, especially as Adam sees there's a benefit for him. The university is withholding funds for Adam's research out of fear that he'll leave for a better position elsewhere. If he puts down more roots by getting involved with someone, his research funds could be released at the next budgeting meeting in about a month's time. After setting a few ground rules, Adam and Olive agree that come the end of September, they'll part ways, having gotten what they need from their arrangement. Hazelwood has a keen understanding of romance tropes and puts them to good use—in addition to fake dating, Olive and Adam are an opposites-attract pairing with their sunny and grumpy personalities—but there are a couple of weaknesses in this debut novel. Hazelwood manages to sidestep a lot of the complicated power dynamics of a student-faculty romance by putting Olive and Adam in different departments, but the impetus for their fake relationship has much higher stakes for Adam. Olive does reap the benefits of dating a faculty member, but in the end, she's still the one seemingly punished or taunted by her colleagues; readers may have been hoping for a more subversive twist. For a first novel, there's plenty of shine here, with clear signs that Hazelwood feels completely comfortable with happily-ever-afters.

Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33682-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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