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.

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.