The morning after Halloween, sixteen-year-old Nan wakes up barefoot on the L train, wearing a torn pink plastic dress, with hacked-off hair, skeleton make-up that proves virtually impossible to remove, and the words "Help Me" scrawled in Sharpie across her chest. "This time her nightmare is real," reads the tag line on the cover.


But while Burnout delivers the drama its exterior promises, the real surprise is just how artfully it portrays a certain kind of New York City teenage life: Saturdays at the Union Square farmer's market, midnight screenings of The Goonies at the Sunshine cinema, a secret hide-out in a 19th century carriage house, Nan's family's space as the sole remaining artists in a converted SoHo loft that has long since gone condo. That and, say, puking in the holy water at Saint Patrick's cathedral in front of a busload of Japanese tourists. It's that kind of bad behavior that leads to Nan spending six months in rehab, though, as her best friend and prime instigator, Seemy, points out, Nan was more follower than leader in the rebellious teen role.


Nan's family is especially finely drawn. "Our house is full of thinking," Nan says. Her artist mother encourages her to find strength in her large frame ("mom says bodies like ours are made for football and slaying dragons"), describes her own art as "either a big fat mess or a mixed-media installation about mall culture and female genital mutilation," and snipes at the rich people who look at "all of the interesting artist people" as some sort of paid entertainment. While the plot speeds along, the background texture makes the reader actually care how it all shakes out.

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).