Experimental fiction is rarely this emotionally engaging.

ADVERBS

The author of the popular Lemony Snicket series of children’s books puts a playful spin on adult themes of love and lust, showing a narrative ingenuity that should delight readers interested in exploring the possibilities of fiction.

The third non-Lemony book from Handler (after Watch Your Mouth, 2000) finds him challenging conventional categories. This initially appears to be a selection of short stories, even parables, with each of the 16 taking a different adverb as its title (“Immediately,” “Arguably,” “Symbolically” and, as a change of pace, “Often”). Teachers generally instruct fledgling writers to eliminate adverbs whenever possible (only passive verbs suffer from greater linguistic disrepute), yet Handler makes his strategy succeed, frequently putting the titular adverb at the service of a broader theme. In “Obviously,” he examines the essence of “kissassedness.” “Briefly” is the briefest piece here, and includes the pivotal appearance of a boy’s briefs. “Soundly” culminates in a boat ferrying across a sound. And so on. Yet in almost subliminal fashion, the author encourages the reader to make connections between the stories, with the repetition of recurring motifs involving magpies and money, plot lines that seem to leapfrog from pieces at the beginning to ones toward the end and the reappearance of characters (who may actually be different characters with the same name). Even the narrative “I” is suspect—sometimes a man, sometimes a woman. Some might find the key to the narrative strategy in “Truly,” which the author characterizes as an “essay” and in which he purports to drop the fictional pretense in favor of straightforward autobiography and explanation of authorial intent. Or is this just another twist of the metafictional maze? Whether one approaches this as a novel (in the loosest sense) or a series of somehow connected stories, Handler’s prose is warm, funny, smart and addictively readable. It might even send some adult readers to Lemony Snicket to see what they’ve been missing.

Experimental fiction is rarely this emotionally engaging.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-072441-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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