The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Vampires, werewolves, and other members of the mainstream supernatural club do not appear in this debut novel. Yet Mara Dyer, a "B student with a body count," is plagued by vaguely unbranded mysterious—and murderous—events. Psychosis, ESP, or PTSD? Hard to say.
Mara's troubles begin after she wakes up in the hospital, the only survivor of an accident at an abandoned New England lunatic asylum that killed her two best friends and her then-boyfriend. Her parents move the family to South Florida for a fresh start. Our romantic hero, when he appears, wears "Chucks with holes worn through, no laces," likes dogs, hates yellow, and stands out for his English accent and notable lack of an orange complexion. His name is Noah, and alas, according to the school gossip, the man is a whore. Are the tales true, or is their teller—a suitably fake-baked blond named Anna who dresses like "an accountant's mid-life crisis" and has a novel evil sidekick, Aidan, a gay, meathead bully—just jealous? As Noah charms her mother with lilies, her older brother with discourse on the "Kafka-Nietzsche nexus and the parodic sonnets of Don Quixote," and Mara herself with Jeff Buckley, Camus, Cuban food, and a costly yet thoughtful birthday exorcism, the two engage in the kind of Hepburn-Tracy-esque banter that makes their mutual intentions clear.

The last-page cliffhanger leaves the nature of Mara's troubles unresolved and a sequel all but guaranteed. While the dead bodies, when they appear, can sometimes feel like an awkward intrusion into an otherwise witty and cosmopolitan novel, many background narratives—Mara's matrilineal connection to India; an Animal Liberation Front subplot, her "token black Jewish bi friend"—promise some interesting real-world possibilities.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

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.