Back to school means new routines, new habits, and attempts at productivity that, let’s be honest, wear out after the first or second week of the term. But reading has turned out to be a great stress relief where you can get lost in a different world a bit. An extremely angry online mob that threatens to ruin the life of a game developer, an Instagram crush that goes horribly wrong, and a tense story about a father and son trying to get away with nothing make up the intrigues of this month’s book review. We recommend new and exciting books that will be a relief from the monotony of assigned reading. Artsweek spoke to three newbie authors with books so addicting you’ll be reading for fun in no time.
“We Watch Eliza Bright” by AE Osworth (Grand Central Publishing)
In AE Osworth’s new genre book, titular Eliza Bright is a software coder at Fancy Dog Games, where she works her way up the ranks. She gets a promotion early on, but pretty much only because she’s sleeping with her boss, Preston, to gain his favor. Or maybe she doesn’t. Maybe she wins the promotion because she’s a gorgeous, hardworking, and fantastic coder. The truth is, the reader really doesn’t know. The book is told from two sides of “the beehive spirit” – one, a far-right, misogynist, gamer-type group who envy Eliza’s power (what a women do in our favorite game studio?) and two, a much smaller collection of feminist and liberal minds called Sixsterhood, who live together and have an infectious positive attitude. Of the inspiration for the Beehive Spirit storytelling, Osworth told me: “Reddit narrators made their way from the jump – I found myself typing the voice “we”, and I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting, who are these guys? “… I ingested a ton of Reddit and 4chan, which wasn’t much fun.
But, of course, there are some private moments in the book where the crowd doesn’t know everything, like the aforementioned scenario where Eliza may or may not have sex with Preston. “Intense fandoms (and that’s what enemies are, really) usually make up stuff about people who are the subjects of their parasocial relationships – so that’s what I chose. Narrators make up things they can’t know, ”says Osworth. Rabid Redditors get their information through various company leaks, which is how they know the location and details of most of the characters.
Redditors are lurking in the background everywhere, including a bustling group meeting where things get out of hand with top developer Lewis. Eliza’s life then becomes a constant struggle for privacy, cancels out culture, and hides from a crowd because of her position at a video game company. The book is a reflection of the polarizing internet culture we all submit to and the dangerous forces that might come to fruition.
“A Touch of Jen” by Beth Morgan (Little, Brown and Company)
Beth Morgan’s debut novel shows Remy and Alicia, a couple living in New York City whose life seems to revolve around Jen, a former colleague of Remy. Her magnetic Instagram profile shows her vacation photos, a jewelry store she’s opened, and other illusions of a perfect life. Remy and Alicia are obsessed, and they even throw up the idea of printing a photo of Jen’s face that Alicia can wear during sex. One day, they meet Jen at the Apple Store and when she invites them on a surf trip, their obsession sets in dangerously.
Desperate to please, Remy and Alicia look awkward, but Jen’s true colors begin to show as well. She calls Remy a “monster” despite his kindness on several occasions, and she notices Alicia’s need to be loved by her. Because they know her character so well online, “Alicia has an intimate familiarity with the image of Jen, Jen’s body, but Jen doesn’t have the same relationship with her and is understandably disturbed by Alicia’s sudden intimacy, ”Morgan told me.
There is also a recurring theme of self-actualization: Jen and her friend Carla are obsessed with the book “The Apple Bush”, a self-help guide to achieving your “perfect result” in life (Alicia takes the book and invest as well). To reach your full potential, you must notice the “signifiers” that are presented. Remy, initially skeptical, begins to believe it after a turning point in his life, when the quirks and element of horror of the book begin to set in. “I really wanted to capture the insanity and instability of what it’s like to be caught up in that kind of worldview – how that can warp our sense of reality and lead to this really scary place,” said Morgan.
“Abundance” by Jakob Guanzon (Graywolf Press)
Meet Henry and Junior, a father-son duo with little money to spare (the amount they have is the name of each chapter, slowly decreasing over time). Wanting to make Junior’s eighth birthday special, Henry splits up at McDonald’s, but things take a turn for the worse when Junior falls ill. An interaction with a motel neighbor becomes violent and they have to run away. After leading the increasingly ill Junior – and with the all-important job interview looming in the back of his mind – Henry works a landscaping job under extreme time pressure, desperately trying to fill in. his gas tank and the reader feels his increasing anxiety (and dwindling funds) with each page.
“Even the hardest working and hardiest individuals among [Americans] end up running out of a system that was never built for their prosperity, let alone their survival, ”Guanzon told me. The desperate situations Henry is placed in really highlights how good we have it, leading up to the tongue-in-cheek title “Abundance.” The book is an exercise in gratitude as we see the duo have no money for basic amenities (Henry force-feeds Junior his meal at McDonalds so he doesn’t waste a dime). “The promise of a comfortable lifestyle, the customer is always right, and upward social mobility are so intrinsic to our national ethics that they have come to constitute an American birthright,” said Guanzon.
The fast paced and dramatic situations of the book played like an action flick in my mind, and Guanzon agreed it could translate to the big screen. “A few studios have shown interest,” he said, “But if that doesn’t work, I’m very happy with the opportunity. [Henry and Junior] had to live in the minds of readers. That alone had seemed like a lot to suck and is now a rare privilege that humiliates me every day.