Three years ago, a writer at the publishing website Mediabistro pointed out that Ellen Hopkins, now the author of eight young adult novels written in verse, might be America's bestselling living poet. Whether or not this is true -- it may well be -- the author's official biography now proudly sports the title.

Hopkins doesn't traffic much in rhyme or meter; the most distinctive aspects of her verse are tricky line breaks (i.e., setting off words in the far margin to create a new sentence, such as "love is a deadly weapon") and formidably thick novels (this one runs to over 600 pages, though it can be read in a long afternoon). The viewpoint in Perfect alternates between four Nevada teens all trying to live up to the condition announced by the title: Kendra's "vanilla hair and glacier blue eyes" have kept her on the pageant circuit, but she decides that becoming a runway model will require losing dangerous amounts of weight, a rhinoplasty, and, perplexingly, breast implants (is Hopkins thinking Vogue or Victoria's Secret?).  

Meanwhile, Andre Marcus Kane III can't let his wealthy, educated African-American parents know that he really wants to be a dancer, not a banker. Sean thinks of himself as "Built," "like a builder/frames a house," though the steroids probably help. Cara, whose twin brother has recently attempted suicide, sees her mother and her friends as "beautiful, pampered birds, / plumage-proud, but blind / to what they drop their shit on" and fears she is bound for the "same aviary. Unless I find my wings."

Sexting, stalking, anorexia, and drug use ensue; but throughout, Hopkins works to maintain a delicate touch, especially with a lesbian coming-out narrative, that keeps some -- though not all -- of the dramas away from easy clichés.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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.