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Staff Reviews: Contemporary Fiction

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library! (For reviews in all genres, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


Cover: 'Red, White & Royal Blue'

"Red, White & Royal Blue" by Casey McQuiston

★★★★★ Alex Claremont-Diaz is like American royalty. His mom, Ellen, is the first female President of the United States and he aspires to follow in her political footsteps one day and also become prez. During his time in the White House, Alex has had a not-so-secret rivalry with Henry, the Prince of England. Alex has always thought of Henry as being spoiled,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Cover: 'This Is How It Always Is'

"This Is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel

★★★★ Rosie and Penn are a happily married couple living just outside Madison with a house full of delightfully eccentric sons (four, to be exact). In hopes of having a daughter, the two decide to have one more child, which turns out to be…another boy, whom they name Claude. But around the time he starts kindergarten, Claude begins to question his gender...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Beartown'

"Beartown" by Fredrik Backman

★★★★ Team sports can be important to a small town. In the case of Beartown, a tiny, rural town in Sweden, that sport is hockey. Boys begin skating almost as soon as they can walk, and the townspeople look at the sport as a source of pride, validation and opportunity. Beartown follows around fifteen different characters, who all have ties to the town’s beloved...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Less'

"Less" by Andrew Sean Greer

★★★ Arthur Less no longer wants to be in love. On the verge of turning 50, Less is a mildly successful author who has spent a large chunk of his adult life in relationships, only to get burned in the end. His book publisher also has passed on his most recent manuscript, putting him at a unique crossroads in his life. To avoid attending the wedding of Freddy...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Louisiana's Way Home'

"Louisiana's Way Home" by Kate DiCamillo

★★★★★ Louisana Elefante used to think that she knew who she was. She was told that she was the daughter of circus performers who died doing a trapeze act and she now lives with her grandmother. But when her grandmother awakens her in the middle of the night and tells her to get in the car, without her cat or dog or even saying goodbye to her friends in order to...

Audience: Children, Tweens | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Fitness Junkie'

"Fitness Junkie" by Lucy Sykes, Jo Piazza

★★★★★ Fitness Junkie is the story of Janey Sweet and her search for a leaner body after a lifelong friend and boss told her that she could lose her job if she didn't shed 30 pounds. Janey throws herself into the ultimatum with gusto by trying all of the fad diets, strange cult-like workouts, and self-searching.  Ever hear of eating clay as a...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Dietland'

"Dietland" by Sarai Walker

★★★ Plum Kettle has struggled with her weight for as long as she can remember. Now in her late 20s, she weighs over 300 pounds and has isolated herself away from most of society. But she’s formulated a plan to change her life completely: get lap band surgery, shed the weight and adopt an entirely new, more confident personae. Plum lives in New York City and...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'An American Marriage'

"An American Marriage" by Tayari Jones

★★★ Roy and Celestial have been married for just one year. As part of their first anniversary, the couple visits Roy’s parents and the small Louisiana town where he grew up. After a disagreement in their hotel room, Roy decides to give Celestial some space and go for a walk. Later that night, the police burst into their room and arrest Roy, accusing him of rape...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'My Oxford Year'

"My Oxford Year" by Julia Whelan

★★★ American Ella Duran has won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University for one year.  This has been a lifelong dream of hers that she has realized at the age of 24.  In addition to being a student there, she is also a key political advisor to key candidates back in the U.S.  Her expectations of Oxford are surpassed and more as she...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'All We Ever Wanted'

"All We Ever Wanted" by Emily Giffin

★★★★ In the Nashville's wealthy neighborhood of Belle Meade, Nina finds her family at the center of a scandal. Nina was raised in a middle class household, with a strong sense of character and doing the right thing. When she married Kirk, she was introduced to a lavish and wealthy lifestyle where money means everything. It is what their son, Finch, has always...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'The Deal of a Lifetime'

"The Deal of a Lifetime" by Fredrik Backman

★★★★ When I saw this new book on the adult fiction shelf in the library, I judged it by physical size and the fact that it had less than 75 pages. I wondered, what could possibly be on the pages that makes it so popular? A man who loved work ahead of everything else in life, including his wife and even his own son, makes a decision with the lady in the gray...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'How To Walk Away'

"How To Walk Away" by Katherine Center

★★★★★ Margaret Jacobsen is a normal young woman with a master's degree, a serious boyfriend, and all of a great life to look forward to. That is, until one day she and her new fiance are in a horrible accident that leaves Margaret paralyzed. In an instant her life takes a dramatic turn as her career hopes and life expectations fizzle, and all that remains is...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'The Abstinence Teacher'

"The Abstinence Teacher" by Tom Perrotta

★★★★ Ruth Ramsey is a sex educator at a suburban New England high school. A divorced mother of two tween girls, Ruth has taught her classes for years with no objection from the community. After misspeaking during one of her classes, a complaint is filed against Ruth and she becomes the subject of intense public scrutiny. In order to appease those who are...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'The Flight Attendant'

"The Flight Attendant" by Chris Bohjalian

★★★ Cassie Bowden is a seasoned flight attendant who has worked for the same airline since her early twenties. Now in her late thirties, Cassie can barely keep her life in order, having fallen into a pattern of binge drinking and hooking up with random men in the various cities she flies to. While in Dubai, Cassie’s risky lifestyle catches up with her when...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery

Cover: 'Leah on the Offbeat'

"Leah on the Offbeat" by Becky Albertalli

★★★ In this direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the focus shifts from Simon to one of his best friends, Leah Burke. It’s about a year after the conclusion of Simon, and Leah and her friends are in the home stretch of their senior year. The gang experiences visiting colleges, getting ready for prom and figuring out how they’ll stay in each other’...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, LGBT

Cover: 'And She Was'

"And She Was" by Jessica Verdi

★★★ 18 year-old Dara Baker is a recent high school graduate with big dreams. Living in a small town in New York with her mother, Mellie, Dara has aspired to be a pro tennis star as long as she can remember. She’s on the verge of entering her first major tournament when she finds out a shocking secret: Mellie is transgender and is actually her biological father...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal, LGBT

Cover: 'Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows'

"Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows" by Balli Kaur Jaswal

★★★★ Nikki is a modern twentysomething living and working in central London. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Nikki has spent much of her adult life embracing a life of independence and feminism while distancing herself from the traditional Sikh lifestyle that the rest of her family prefers. While still figuring out a career path for herself, Nikki finds a...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'The Upside of Unrequited'

"The Upside of Unrequited" by Becky Albertalli

★★★ Molly and Cassie are 17 year-old fraternal twins who have always been extremely close. But ever since Cassie started dating her girlfriend, Mina, the two sisters have started drifting apart. Molly feels like she’s being left behind and longs for a boyfriend to share her life with and spend time with. The thing is, Molly has had 25 crushes so far in her...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Cover: 'Good As Gone'

"Good As Gone" by Amy Gentry

★★★ When she was just 13 years old, Julie Whitaker was abducted from her bedroom at knifepoint. The kidnapping was witnessed by Julie’s younger sister, Jane, who watched in horror from the interior of her closet. The abduction, which was never solved, left the Whitaker family in shambles, forever changing the dynamic between Jane; her father, Tom; and mother,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Cover: 'Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda'

"Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli

★★★★ Simon is just a typical, well-adjusted teenager. He does well in school, has a stable and supportive family and has a great group of friends. There's just one thing the people in Simon's life don't know about him: he's gay. After another young man at Simon's school comes out of the closet on a social media site, he and Simon begin emailing back and...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, LGBT

Cover: 'Far From the Tree'

"Far From the Tree" by Robin Benway

★★★★ What exactly is a family? Are they your biological relatives? The people who raised you? Or are they the people you choose to surround yourself with every day? Far From the Tree explores the idea of family in all its forms as it follows three siblings who reconnect as teenagers after being given up for adoption in infancy. There's 17 year-old...

Audience: Teens | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, YA Fiction With Adult Appeal, Award-Winning

Cover: 'Little Fires Everywhere'

"Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng

★★★★ Almost every member of the Richardson family has something going for them. The family, headed up by matriarch Elena, lives in the wealthy and picture-perfect Cleveland suburb of Shaker, where people’s lives are practically planned out for them before they’re born. One day, the family wakes to find their home on fire. A fire that is, without a doubt,...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Final Girls'

"Final Girls" by Riley Sager

★★★★ Quincy Carpenter lives in New York City and is the curator of her own popular baking blog. But 10 years ago, she was the lone survivor of a brutal serial slaying in the middle of the woods, known as the Pine Cottage Murders. Though the rest of her college friends were stabbed to death by a deranged mental patient, Quincy survived and was branded by the...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Mrs. Fletcher'

"Mrs. Fletcher" by Tom Perrotta

★★★★★ Eve Fletcher is a 40-something divorcee whose life is at a crossroads. Her only child, Brendan, has just left for his freshman year of college, leaving Eve to figure out what to do now that she's on her own. Late one night, she receives a sexually explicit text from an anonymous number, which initially startles Eve but later intrigues...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Cover: 'Young Jane Young'

"Young Jane Young" by Gabrielle Zevin

★★★★★ Aviva Grossman is a political intern in Florida. When she has an affair with her married boss, she feels the wrath from society as "the other woman." Unable to find work anywhere due to the scandal, Aviva reinvents herself as Jane Young far away in Maine. Years later, Jane decides to run for mayor of her small town. However, the past comes to light and...

Audience: Adults | Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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