New York Times Review
THE PERFECT NANNY, by Leila Slimani. Translated by Sam Taylor. (Penguin, paper, $16.) Two children die at the hands of their nanny in this devastating novel, an unnerving cautionary tale that won France's prestigious Prix Goncourt and analyzes the intimate relationship between mothers and caregivers. KING ZENO, by Nathaniel Rich. (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) In Rich's riotous novel about New Orleans a hundred years ago, at the dawn of the Jazz Age, a great American city and a new genre of music take shape as the Spanish flu and a serial ax murderer both run rampant. THE YEARS, by Annie Ernaux. Translated by Alison L. Strayer. (Seven Stories, paper, $19.95.) In this autobiography, the French writer anchors her particular 20th-century memories within the daunting flux of 21st-century consumerism and media domination, turning her experiences into a kind of chorus reflecting on politics and lifestyle changes. DOGS AT THE PERIMETER, by Madeleine Thien. (Norton, paper, $15.95.) Narrated by a neurological researcher whose memories of her childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge start to leak into her present day, this novel is contrapuntal and elegiac in tone, with a white heat beneath. THE LAST GIRL: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, by Nadia Murad with Jenna Krajeski. (Tim Duggan Books, $27.) Murad, a Yazidi woman, describes the torture and rapes she suffered at the hands of ISIS militants in Iraq before escaping to become a spokeswoman for endangered Yazidis. WINTER, by Ali Smith. (Pantheon, $25.95.) The second in Smith's cycle of seasonal novels depicts a contentious Christmas reunion between two long-estranged sisters. As in "Autumn" (one of the Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2017), a female artist figures prominently, and Smith again takes the nature of consciousness itself as a theme. GREEN, by Sam Graham-Felsen. (Random House, $27.) Set in a majority-minority middle school in 1990s Boston, this debut coming-of-age novel (by the chief blogger for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign) tells the story of a white boy and a black boy who become friends - to a point. A STATE OF FREEDOM, by Neel Mukherjee. (Norton, $25.95.) Mukherjee's novel, a homage of sorts to V. S. Naipaul, presents five interconnected stories set in India and exploring the lives of the unmoored. BARKUS, by Patricia MacLachlan. (Chronicle, $14.99; ages 4 to 7.) A mysteriously smart dog changes everything for a little girl in this witty beginning to a new early chapter book series from MacLachlan, the author of books for children of all ages. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:
Publishers Weekly Review
From the chief blogger of Barack Obama's first presidential campaign comes a provocative debut that wrestles with matters of race, white privilege, and institutional prejudice head-on. The subtly humorous, surprisingly touching coming-of-age narrative is told from the perspective of Dave, one of the only white students at King, a predominantly black and Latino public middle school in Boston. At the start of sixth grade in 1992, he befriends Marlon, a smart black student from the nearby housing projects with a passion for the Celtics and a gorgeous singing voice. The pals wade through typical middle school drama together-flirting with "shorties," getting bullied by tougher classmates, handling academic stress. Their friendship survives most of the upheaval, until competition over a girl and Dave's ease at getting ahead get in the way. The significance of the boys' backgrounds is obvious-Dave might be an outlier at school, but he and his Harvard-educated hippie parents are more set up in life than most in his gentrifying neighborhood. Where Graham-Felsen shines is in his depiction of the pressures put on Marlon to rise above his circumstances and to cope with his mother's mental illness. The novel is also a memorable and moving portrayal of a complicated but deep friendship that just might survive the weight placed on it. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.