Girlchild

by Tupelo Hassman |

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REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

NOVEL

"Wake up Mama with Alka-Seltzer, plop, plop, fizz, fizz, it don't matter who the president is. It's morning again in America." This is the irrepressible voice of Rory Dawn Hendrix, a young girl sprouting like a weed in the unforgiving terrain of the Calle de las Flores, a Reno trailer park. Tupelo Hassman's lyrical and fiercely accomplished first novel brings us three generations of Hendrix women washed up in "the Calle": tough old Grandma Shirley; Rory's worn-out, haunted mom; and Rory herself, who's a determined little bookworm. Life at the trailer park is ugly and often terrifying, especially for a vulnerable girlchild. Isolated by her intelligence ("the hot shame of being smart"), her mother's nighttime bartending shifts and sloppy dating life and the horrendous sexual abuse that she dares not reveal, Rory finds refuge in a battered copy of the Girl Scout Handbook bought for 10 cents from the school librarian. Obsessively following and reinterpreting its rules, she develops the resilience to puzzle out a vision of her future life. In Hassman's skilled hands, what could have been an unrelenting chronicle of desolation becomes a lovely tribute to the soaring, defiant spirit of a survivor.

Lone Wolf

by Jodi Picoult |

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REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Picoult runs with the wolves in her compelling latest, a blend of interspecies friendship and searing family crisis. When a car crash leaves Animal Planet's wolf expert Luke Warren in a vegetative coma but spares his teen daughter, the girl finds herself pitted against her brother, who "quit the family" to teach in Thailand. The ensuing medical and moral quandary-with Luke's ex caught in the middle-taps a hot-button issue, pulling the plug on life support. The story also incorporates fascinating research about wolf packs as model domestic units. Does the family that howls together stay together? This page-turner will keep you wondering.

Other Waters

by Eleni N. Gage |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NOVEL

A Jane Austen-ish plot gets a delicious Indian accent in this effervescent novel by former People editor Gage. Maya Das, a psychiatric resident torn between her parents' traditional values and her bustling New York City life, finds her world upended when her grandmother's death ostensibly unleashes a curse. Maya's boyfriend dumps her and she's faced with a malpractice suit, so she heads back to India to remove the curse, save her family and reboot her life. But in this exotic, mysterious setting, cultures collide, love grows more complicated and Maya finally discovers just whom-and where-she is really meant to be.

THE PREACHER

by Camilla Lackberg

A killer's on the loose in Fjallbacka, Sweden, bringing new urgency to old memories for the local detective.

THE OLD ROMANTIC

by Louise Dean

When a cranky patriarch tries to reunite his estranged family before he dies, hilarity-and poignancy-result.

DREAMS OF JOY

by Lisa See

In See's emotionally and politically astute bestseller, a young girl seeks her birth father in 1950s Shanghai.

If you couldn't get enough of the Hunger Games series, try these fabulous fantasies.

ENDER'S GAME

by Orson Scott Card

Ender Wiggin is whip-smart, but can he lead his space station into war-at age 6? (For adults or kids over 12)

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

by Philip Pullman

Pullman's trilogy about Lyra and her daemon, who are ensnared in a plot to kidnap children for experiments, is complex, strange and wonderful. (12 and up)

GRACELING

by Kristin Cashore

In Katsa's kingdom, children born with different color eyes have hidden gifts. Katsa's appears to be for killing. (14 and up)

PRETTIES

by Scott

Westerfeld Book two in the ingenious "Uglies" series, about a world where everyone's perfected by plastic surgery at age 16. (12 and up)

PURE

by Julianna Baggott

Teens Pressia and Partridge struggle to survive in a surreal post-apocalyptic world. (Adult)

Feeling stifled by the strict Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn where she grew up, Deborah Feldman, 25, left with her son three years ago.

WHAT MADE YOU GO?

When I was 17, I was forced to marry. It was traumatic and really made me lose faith in my community. Hasidic women have little power.

WHAT CAN'T WOMEN DO?

Drive, get an education. After you're married you have to shave your head, and when you get your period you're considered impure and no one can touch you. I don't think all women feel dehumanized by it, but I did.

HOW DID YOU GET AWAY?

I sold my jewelry, I rented a car and I just left with my son (Isaac, now 6). Usually when women leave, the community rallies and takes their kids away, but I had an amazing divorce lawyer.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR OLD WORLD NOW?

I'm not here to bash anyone, I'm here to encourage reform. But I love being free! I'm so glad I left.

CHARACTER SKETCHES

Digital artist Brian Joseph Davis uses law enforcement sketchware and authors' descriptions to make classic characters come alive (thecomposites.tumblr.com).

1 HUMBERT HUMBERT

from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

"Gloomy good looks ... A cesspoolful of rotting monsters behind his slow boyish smile."

2 DAISY BUCHANAN

from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes ..."

3 MR. ROCHESTER

from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

"His decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty...massive brow, broad and jetty eyebrows..."

4 EMMA BOVARY

from Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

"She was pale all over, white as a sheet; the skin of her nose was drawn ... her eyes looked at you vaguely."

5 TOM RIPLEY

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

"He had always thought he had the world's dullest face... and a look also of vague fright that he had never been able to erase."

A THEORY OF SMALL EARTHQUAKES

By Meredith Maran

Maran (My Lie) explores the vagaries of love and the true nature of family in this debut novel, the story of a Bay Area woman who leaves her longtime partner for a "normal" life with a man.