IN

A GRAPHIC NOVEL

Cartoonist McPhail’s debut graphic novel follows a youngish artist’s desperate search for authenticity in a culture where true selves hide behind performative, perfunctory interactions.

Professional illustrator Nick Moss isn’t sad but wants to be—at least for a night. He’s heard of sad men being sad in sad bars, so he tries on the role for himself, but an attractive young woman named Wren playfully calls him out on his artifice. This meet-cute leads to a fun, steamy, no-strings-attached affair, which weaves through Nick’s everyday struggles to form meaningful connections to his fellow humans—strangers, neighbors, and family alike. Eventually he learns to lean into awkward encounters and finally say something that matters to the other person—transcendent moments that McPhail brings to life by fantastically transporting Nick to vibrant, inspiring vistas for the duration of these fleeting epiphanies. McPhail’s art is exceptional—realistic if impressionistic settings and anatomic figures with cartoonish accents like bug eyes and overemotive gestures. The visuals are scrumptious and the yearning for personal connection is deeply relatable, but the story loses focus with observational bits about pretentious coffee shops and corporate jargon, and the central romantic relationship has a bit too much of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl dynamic to fully resonate. But even when beats feel overly familiar, McPhail presents them with style and grace, deftly moving the story along with subtle, impactful visual cues. Nick isn’t an especially likable character, save for the relatability of his desires, but the eyes McPhail gives him—perfect white circles with pinprick pupils—imbue the awkward and borderline-unpleasant character with the charm of an earnest boob. What more could anyone be when faced with their place in the universe?

Gorgeous navel-gazing.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-34554-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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