At a Loss for Words

The Specs

  • What: New People
  • Who: Danzy Senna
  • Pages: 229
  • Genre: Contemporary adult fiction
  • Published: 2017
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Rarely do I not know what to say about a book. Usually I could talk for hours about a specific plot, character development, narrative arc, setting, etc. etc. etc. And whether I loved or hated the book usually doesn’t matter. I’m a bibliophile; I can talk about books forever.

But Danzy Senna’s 2017 novel, New People had me coming up short. All I can say is that it barely ignited two flames. This might seem harsh, but honestly, the only thing that kept me reading was knowing that I only had to get through 229 pages. “Get through.” That’s not how I speak of literature. New People lacked depth and explanation, and while the bones are there for a great story, they were poorly constructed. I felt lost in every one of those 229 pages.

New People

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Guest Reviewer: Perfect Illusion

By: Dana Tong

The Specs

Do you ever have those days when you’re scanning through channels on TV and you hit upon How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and even though you’ve seen it 200 times, you turn it on anyways? That’s how I feel about Sophie Kinsella books. I know how they go; I’ve read several of them multiple times, but I get sucked in with every read. Chick lit earns a bad rap, but honestly, do you want to read something depressing and dark every time you pick up a book? I love a good thriller and a good sob as well (Cutting for Stone elicited one of the Great Cries of 2013), but I also love a warm and fuzzy, funny, silly book just as much.

After a string of not-so-amazing reads, I picked up Sophie Kinsella’s My (Not So) Perfect Life. The story centers around Katie, a young 20-something trying to make it in the big city after a life on the farm, climb the career ladder, build a social life—and make sure everyone knows via social media how successful she is at all of these things. When Katie gets fired from her job by her constantly frazzled manager, she tries to keep up the appearances she has built while also helping her family turn a corner in their lives and build a successful glamping business.

Sophie

Source: Amazon.

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Lost Characters

 The Specs

  • What: Modern Lovers
  • Who: Emma Straub
  • Pages: 353
  • Genre: Contemporary adult fiction
  • Subgenre: Chick lit
  • Published: 2016
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

When a book takes place in a state, town, or neighborhood where I’ve lived, I always dive in (see my four-flame review for The Nest). I love the nostalgia that I feel and deciphering how accurate the author described the places I know so well. This is why I naturally gravitate toward novels set in New York. Outsiders might argue that too many stories have an empire state of mind. But the five boroughs are much too expansive and offer so many intricacies, odds, and ends that “too many New York stories” is just unfathomable to me. That’s like saying there are too many restaurants in the city. Just stop.

So when I read that Emma Straub’s third novel would take place in Ditmas Park, two blocks from and on the same street as my second New York apartment, I instantly put in a hold at the library. I shared a great three years with Brooklyn, and I wanted to see what perspective Straub would bring to my old ‘hood.

I have to say, she nailed the setting. The descriptions of the streets, residents, and vibes found in Ditmas Park resonated with me. It reminded me of the jokes my roommates and I would make of Church Avenue, of the Himalayan restaurant on Cortelyou that Brian discovered, of the giant Victorians that took you out of New York’s anxiety and speed. Nostalgia was about the only thing, however, that Straub nailed in my opinion.

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Nonguilty Intoxication

The Specs

I’ve never been one to hide my feelings toward chick lit. The last class of my advanced writing capstone during college focused on book recommendations, and of course, most of mine were in the often condemned category. I felt no shame, and my professor backed me up by saying her tenured, English professor father was also fond of the genre. And the Hinnants know their stuff.

So it’s baffling to me that literary critics can shun such great writing, yet I’ll be reading it until my eyes go bad. Sometimes such a gift is dropped into your lap that provides pleasure without a drop of guilt, and this is what Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney delivered in The Nest.

Sweeney’s debut novel has all of the juice that we crave from classic chick lit: the gossip, the hot-mess characters, the love connections, the DRAMA. But there’s something about her elegant writing that keeps any stigma at bay. It’s simply just a beautiful read with a clever storyline.

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