Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

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Whenever there’s a loss, there’s bound to be a gain somewhere else

A debut novel by Laura Lane McNeal, Dollbaby introduces readers to some of the most sparkling, eccentric, and entertaining literary voices that contemporary southern fiction has to offer.  The story takes place in New Orleans in the 1960s and follows Liberty “Ibby” Bell as she begins a new life in the South with her grandmother, Miss Fannie Bell.  Before her father died, 12 year-old Ibby had barely heard of her southern grandmother, but just a few days after his funeral, Ibby’s neglectful mother leaves her young daughter in Fannie’s care indefinitely.

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Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

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…if this life is constantly ending, then it’s constantly beginning

From the author of Daniel Fights a Hurricane and Light Boxes, Crystal Eaters is another dark and deeply metaphorical tale that explores death, fear, obsession, and the consequences of modernity.  In an unnamed village on the outskirts of a metropolis, the inhabitants believe that life is be measured by the number of “crystals” one possesses.  Born with 100, crystals diminish over time through aging, illness, and injury.  Obsessed with a finding a way to increase their crystal count and extend life, the villagers consume crystal rocks that are locally mined.

They come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes – and some are crystals believed to be more valuable than others.  Red and yellow are most common, but some believe in the existence of black crystals – the most rare and powerful crystal of all, which may contain the ability to raise one’s internal crystal count.  At the center of this curious backdrop is Remy, a young girl with a very sick mother, a depressed father, and an incarcerated older brother.

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The Fever by Megan Abbott

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You could see everything now, if you wanted.

As I’ve said before, Megan Abbott has a special new way of horrifying readers – by reminding them what it’s like to be teenagers again.  With her last two novels, Abbott explored the labyrinth of the teenage mind and rediscovered both the darkness and exuberance that lies beneath.  When you boil it down, this polarity of light and dark is essentially what made your teen years unbearable – caught between responsibility and desire, shame and pride, and bound within a great big hormonal net.  Teenagers constantly feel both vulnerable and invincible, and this wellspring of emotion is the perfect setting for a mystery.  Teens are mysterious and baffling enough anyway, but add a little jealousy, sex, and parental involvement to the mix, and you will have yourself a potent recipe for disaster.

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Off Course by Michelle Huneven

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I’ve been waiting my whole life to be seen like that

It’s the early 1980s and Cress Hartley is ready to write her doctoral dissertation and begin her life.  Distracted and unmotivated, Cress retreats to her parents’ vacation home in the California mountains in order to focus and take advantage of the peace and quiet.  But Cress soon learns that the mountains have their own unique distractions – namely men, booze, and nature.

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Casebook by Mona Simpson

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I only discovered what I most didn’t want to know

In Mona Simpson’s Casebook, Miles Adler-Hart is just a kid when he begins spying on his family members.  Armed with a set of walkie talkies and a knack for digging through drawers and bedside tables, Miles quickly discovers that he is soon to be a child of divorce.  While most kids might be horrified and distracted by such a discovery, Miles turns his initial shock into a learning experience and an opportunity to delve further into adult secrets.

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