Note: I received a copy of this book from Scribner (via Netgalley) for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review in any way.
Reality and fiction shade into one another in We Eat Our Own—but not in the way you expect. Told through rotating viewpoints and interspersed with court testimony, Kea Wilson’s debut novel is the story of a kitschy Italian horror movie being shot in the Amazon rainforest. The story within a story? A news crew bent on tracking down a pair of anthropologists and their daughter, who have not-so-mysteriously vanished while studying a cannibalistic tribe. This kitschy movie has two twists, though: a found footage framing device, and a disappeared trio of lead actors whose on-screen murders might have been a little too realistic. Surrounding all this is a real-life backdrop equally saturated with violence, this time in the form of drug cartels and political instability. Continue reading
You—the debut novel by writer Caroline Kepnes—begins like a keyed-up Billy Joel fantasy. Joe Goldberg—charming, perceptive, and acutely aware of his service-sector lot in life—is working in a New York bookstore when MFA candidate Guinevere Beck walks in. Beck is pretty, perky, and slightly pampered, and the couple’s first, bantering encounter (straight out of a romantic comedy) carries with it the promise of both future misunderstandings and ultimate reconciliation. Of course, the novel’s blood-drenched cover promises something else entirely, as do Joe’s obsessive ruminations on Beck and his ominously evasive references to a prior failed relationship. It soon becomes clear that the novel’s cross-class romance is less “Uptown Girl” than it is Collector, with Joe going to extreme and amoral lengths to secure Beck’s affections. Continue reading
Clarissa Bourne is surely the first person to ever welcome jury duty with open arms. In The Book of You, though, the seven-week criminal trial—itself a gruesome play-by-play of a combined kidnapping/gang rape—comes as a strange relief to Clarissa, whose own life has devolved into a series of moves and countermoves as she attempts to evade the increasingly obsessive attentions of her coworker, Rafe Solmes. She even takes tentative steps towards striking up a relationship with fellow juror Robert—no small achievement, given both her background with Rafe and the messy breakdown of her last relationship. Unfortunately, Robert’s presence in Clarissa’s life threatens to send Rafe into new and more dangerous fits of jealousy, and as his actions become more alarming, Clarissa begins to compile a record of his behavior to take to the police.
Late at night in a silent hospital, deep in the throes of a strange illness, one of The Fever’s “afflicted girls” records a message to the world: “Listen!…Whatever’s happening to us…It’s bigger than everything.” While this may or may not prove literally true by novel’s end—I’m not one to spoil a book entirely—it certainly has the ring of figurative accuracy. The effects of the girls’ mysterious illness seem to go far beyond the physical. “Are you sure it’s her?” one of the girls asks when she sees a friend in the hospital, and her question gets at the heart of an idea central to The Fever: that we—our bodies, our minds, our souls—are shockingly prone to change in the face of external pressure.