Fiction A to Z
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane BuxtonWhat it is: a wholly unique story in which a domesticated crow narrates as humanity descends into a zombie apocalypse and their pets are left to save themselves.
Why you might like it: the crow's-eye view of humans (and of Seattle) is quirky and irreverent (and crass); the cast is made up almost entirely of animals (domesticated and wild); there's dark humor amid the tragedy.
For fans of: animal POVs; zombie fiction; clever and creative heroes.
The Warehouse by Rob HartThe setting: a near future world destroyed by climate change, in which nearly all aspects of life are controlled by a massive global corporation called Cloud.
What happens: Two Cloud employees discover that all is not as it seems behind the closed doors of the near-monopoly.
For fans of: Dave Eggers' The Circle, of course, as well as Netflix's Black Mirror, but also totalitarian classics like George Orwell's 1984.
How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin RockawayWhat it is: a charming story of a young woman challenging the male-dominated tech world while also pursuing romance.
What happens: Tired of being demeaned at work and on dates, help desk staffer Melanie Strickland creates a website that alerts other women to potential jerks -- when it goes viral, she's unprepared for her overnight success.
For fans of: Christina Lauren's My Favorite Half-Night Stand or Camille Perri's The Assistants.
The World Doesn't Require You: Stories by Rion Amilcar ScottWhat it is: a collection of linked short stories (and one novella) set in the fictional Cross River, Maryland, home to the descendants of the only successful slave revolt in the U.S.
Why you might like it: Raw and sometimes uncomfortable, this collection tackles themes of loneliness and love, mixing magical realism with the tumultuous history of enslaved peoples and their descendants in the U.S.
Reviewers say: "intoxicating" (Booklist); "boundary-shattering" (Esquire).
Marilou Is Everywhere by Sarah SmithWhat happens: When the daughter of an unstable, alcoholic mother disappears, poverty-stricken teenager Cindy slips into her place.
Why you might like it: Though Cindy's actions may seem malicious, this debut novel explores an abandoned girl's need for maternal love, and a needy mother's inexpressible love for her daughter.
About the author: Sarah Smith is a poet, and it shows in her spare, lyrical prose.
Green by Sam Graham-FelsenWhat it's about: It's 1992, and sixth-grader Green is one of the few white students at Boston's Martin Luther King Middle School. After Marlon, a studious black kid from the housing projects nearby, stands up for him, a friendship is born. It's strong enough to weather the typical middle school problems, but it may not be strong enough to survive their differences -- or the increasingly bigger problems they face.
For fans of: stories about interracial friendships (and the strains they come under) or coming-of-age stories told by imperfect but likable narrators.
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee JohnsonFeaturing: naive teacher Molly Niccol, who's a mid-year replacement English teacher at a privileged Bay Area high school, and several of her students, all affected by a classmate's suicide.
Read it for: the shifting perspectives; the intensity of adolescence; the dark side of privilege.
Reviewers say: "this bleak, potent picture will scare the pants off readers" (Library Journal).
How to Be Safe by Tom McAllisterWhat happens: Not long after high school teacher Anna Crawford is suspended for a classroom outburst, a shooting at the school leaves dozens dead and wounded. And Anna becomes a person of interest.
Why you might like it: Though the novel's catalyst is a horrific event that is all too common in the U.S., the violence is mainly off the page, Anna is a character who encourages empathy, and the trenchant observations that follow are an indictment of gun violence.
John Woman by Walter MosleyWhat it's about: a young man's reinvention of himself as a student and professor after his participation in a violent crime requires a new identity.
What happens: John Woman lands at a liberal college in the Southwest as a professor of deconstructionist history -- that history is found in the details not written down. And he finds that, ultimately, his own hidden history will be discovered.
Read it for: the characters; the exploration of how history shapes us.
Dear Committee Members by Julie SchumacherWhat it is: a sly and satirical novel told entirely through the acidic letters of one overwhelmed college professor, who claims that the demands of academia require more letters of recommendation than published work.
Any other complaints? Budget cuts, staff eliminations, favoritism, and other small indignities find their way into the professor's endless stream of comical, frank, and sometimes passive-aggressive letters.
For fans of: Aaron Thiel's similarly biting, college-set Ghost Apple.
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