Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 6, 2020


Harper Perennial: Barely Functional Adult: It'll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng

Berkley Books: In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

Candlewick Press (MA): Stink and the Hairy, Scary Spider by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Scholastic Press:  The Captive Kingdom (the Ascendance Series, Book 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Big Picture Press: Maps: Deluxe Edition by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska

Candlewick Press: Evelyn del Rey Is Moving Away by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

News

California to Begin Partial Reopening This Week

Starting this Friday, May 8, bookstores and other nonessentiall businesses throughout California may be able to reopen partially for business, provided they operate by pick-up only and follow certain state health guidelines. 

Details about the partial reopening are still scarce. While Governor Gavin Newsom announced the decision on Monday, state guidelines will not be released until Thursday, May 7. At the same time, the state's new orders do not supersede a county's orders, so stores in many counties may have to wait even longer for partial reopening.

A number of booksellers in the Bay Area, including Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books and Brad Johnson of East Bay Booksellers, said there haven't been any indications yet that the region's lockdown orders will be eased on Friday.

Mulvihill said he and his team hope to start doing curbside pick-up as soon as possible, once guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of staff members and the public. He added that transitioning to pick-up service shouldn't be a problem, whenever it becomes possible. "Since we got our PPP loan, we have plenty of staff to do curbside."

Johnson, meanwhile, reported that starting curbside pick-up again "wouldn't really change a ton" for his store. East Bay Booksellers has sort of been doing curbside pick-up already, through an arrangement with a local cafe. Johnson and his booksellers drop pre-paid books off at a nearby cafe for customers to pick up, and in the store's order confirmation Johnson exhorts customers to buy cafe items. The arrangement has been a "win-win" for both the cafe and bookstore, and Johnson said they've managed to keep up a "pretty steady revenue stream," although the volume of orders has been a bit overwhelming at times.

Lauren Savage, owner of the Reading Bug in San Carlos, Calif., said she's unsure whether she'll be able to start doing pick-up on Friday. Whenever she does open for pick-up, though, she'll have to do some major straightening-out of the store's interior, as it had to be turned into a shipping warehouse overnight when the stay-at-home order was issued. She'll likely only do very limited curbside pick-up at first, and make sure that all transactions are still done online and not in person. 

There will be plexiglass barriers between customers and staff, Savage continued, and everyone will be wearing masks. Speaking of staff, that in itself is a hurdle, as many of her staff are either unable to come back into work and interact with customers or would not feel safe doing so. With only one or two people working at a time, she's 3-5 days behind on pulling orders. The hardest part, however, will simply be getting what customers want. While Ingram has done a pretty good job with fulfillment, she explained, some publishers are shipping only in case packs and, in many instances, publisher orders are taking two weeks or longer to arrive.

In Southern California, Los Angeles County's own stay-at-home order is set to expire May 15, and there so far have not been any indications that the county will ease restrictions earlier than that.

Mary Williams, general manager at Skylight Books, said that even if L.A. businesses are allowed to reopen partially on Friday, that wouldn't be possible for Skylight, as it will take a couple of days of staff working in the store to get things ready. After selling books through Skylight's website and a POS system that was not in store, the staff will have to do a lot of inventory corrections. They'll also have to do pulls and returns, and Williams wants to reconfigure the space so that several staff members can work on orders simultaneously without having to cross paths. Beyond that, Williams said that as eager as she is to be open to the public again, she's concerned about easing up on restrictions too soon. Based on what she's seen over the last few days, she is operating under the assumption that she won't be able to go back into the store until May 15.

In Culver City in West Los Angeles, The Ripped Bodice offered in-store pick-up until the local stay-at-home order went into effect. However, owners Bea and Leah Koch said they will not resume doing pick-up until the store is open to the public again. They explained that while they're of course concerned about health issues, it's more of a safety concern, as there is usually only one person working in the store at any given time now.

Linda Sherman-Nurick, owner of Cellar Door Books in Riverside, will be able to start offering pick-up on Friday. Sherman-Nurick added that she received a PPP loan last week and is looking forward to bringing her booksellers back and implementing pick-up. She said she's optimistic that the store can make this work and start recovering some lost ground. Her only concern, meanwhile, is that people might start to push for more. "We will not let people in the store, and I'm guessing that's going to become an issue, but we'll see."

Julie Moore, owner of The Bookworm in Camarillo, said she is ready to start doing curbside pick-up on Friday, provided Ventura County gives the go-ahead. "I truly hope we can open because it is hard to make rent with limited opportunities for sales," Moore added.


University of California Press:  Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels by Tony Keddie


International Update: McNally Robinson's Reopening; BA's Guide to Social Distancing

In Canada, McNally Robinson Booksellers reopened its Grant Park store in Winnipeg to the public Monday, noting on Facebook: "We will be following all provincial safety guidelines and taking every precaution to provide a safe and clean space to browse. There will be a limit of 50 visitors in the store at any one time, and we will discourage lingering and leisurely browsing. Access to the store will only be granted through the parking lot doors, not through the mall, and there will be hand sanitizer available at the doorway. We have removed many of the in-store chairs, displays, and tables to allow visitors to distance themselves more freely, and there will be signs reminding and encouraging guests to remain apart at a safe distance. Communal surfaces such as door handles, countertops, debit/credit terminals, keyboards, phones, and washrooms will be sanitized regularly. Payment by cash is allowed but discouraged; we ask you pay by debit or credit instead. Staff will be screening themselves online prior to each shift and will not be allowed to work if they show any symptoms of Covid-19.

"For the safety of our customers, staff, and community as a whole, we ask that you also follow all recommended health and safety precautions everywhere you go, and to please stay home if you are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms."

McNally Robinson operates two stores in Winnipeg and one in Saskatoon. Co-owner Chris Hall told the CBC he was caught off guard by the timing of Manitoba's broad rollbacks of Covid-19 restrictions: "But hey, we'll take it. If it's safe to open, then let's get open."

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Noting that "the journey to re-opening bookshops is, we all know too well, going to be a long and challenging one," the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland has created a Guide to Social Distancing on Re-opening for Bookshops, which was adapted from one created by the British Retail Consortium and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.

"We have adapted it for booksellers, and we hope it is a useful starting point for you. It is, however, just that--a starting point," the BA noted. "We will be adding to it over the coming days and weeks, and specifically are working on a list of resources and suppliers of materials for you to get ready for safe re-opening."

In addition, the BA noted that it plans to provide members with more information about how the organization will be able to help with "sourcing materials, signage, consumer messages, window and in-store items to help create a safe, yet welcoming environment for your customers--and for you and your staff.... We are also continuing to liaise with suppliers, other retail bodies, other trade organizations and other Booksellers Associations around the world to gather best practice and share it with you, making sure that you have all you need to safely re-open, when you decide that is what is best for your business."

The BA is lobbying the government to allow bookshops to be in the first wave of safe re-opening, but cautioned that "in order for that to happen, we all need to take seriously the ramifications and implications of the work required to keep staff and customers safe--as well as gradually put in place commercial, practical and health and safety measures which will maximize the potential for effective bookselling for you all."

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Booksellers in Bengalaru (Bangalore) in India spoke "about the precautions they are taking during the lockdown" with the Hindu, which reported that since the last week of April, when the Union Home Ministry "allowed bookstores to resume their services to sell school books during lockdown, well-known bookstores are being flooded with calls for delivery requests. Since May 3, with slight lockdown relaxations, people (though not too many) are even visiting bookstores."

Ravi Menezes, proprietor of Goobe's Book Republic, said, "We have been delivering books via Dunzo and speed post.... We receive about one or two orders a day online and over the last few days, we have had one walk-in a day.... We wear masks at all times. We also have hand sanitizers. One wall of our store is open, so we have a slightly more air circulation. We do not have an air conditioner, which is an advantage. We allow three customers at a time."

At Sapna Book House Koramangala, branch manager Mehul Khimani noted that since the end of last month, "we have been taking help from Dunzo, some people since the beginning of May have been coming to the store.... We use hand sanitizers, wear gloves, and every week the store is disinfected. We provide hand sanitizers to our customers and conduct temperature checks. We allow five people at a time in our store, the others have to wait outside."

Krishna Gowda, owner of the Bookworm, said that since April 25, "we have been sending books through Dunzo. Now we have opened the store. We are allowing only two people at a time. We are wearing masks and using hand sanitizers. We provide hand sanitizers to our customers too and they are also requested to wear masks. We also run temperature checks. Very few people are coming because there isn't much transportation. We are getting lot of calls and WhatsApp messages, though."

Blossom Book House reopened May 1, and owner Mayi Gowda said: "We have a security guard stationed outside, we have hand sanitizers, and are only allowing people wearing masks inside.... Our store is 9,000 square feet so we can accommodate 100 people at a time in our store, but they should maintain personal distancing. We are also delivering books through Dunzo and Swiggy Genie."


GLOW: Erewhon: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk


Joseph-Beth Closes Crestview Hills, Ky., Store

Joseph-Beth Booksellers has permanently closed its store in Crestview Hills, Ky., due to the impact the novel coronavirus has had on business, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. The bookseller's two remaining locations, in Lexington and Cincinnati, continue to sell products online for delivery and curbside pickup.

"In response to business changes over the last several weeks due to Covid-19, Joseph-Beth is undertaking some large-scale changes," CEO Adam Miller wrote in a statement. "Unfortunately, this includes permanently closing our Crestview Hills location.... We are thankful to have been part of this community. Thank you for your support over the years."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Little Threats by Emily Schultz


McGraw-Hill and Cengage Call Off Planned Merger

Cengage and McGraw-Hill, two of the largest academic publishers remaining, have called off their planned merger, which was announced last May and was to be completed earlier this year. The Bookseller reported the merger "had been delayed to September 2020 as the [Department of Justice] reviewed the transaction on competition grounds. Meanwhile the U.K. Competition & Markets Authority raised concerns over the move and decided to launch an in-depth investigation."

According to Cengage, the decision was caused by "a prolonged regulatory review process and the inability to agree to a divestitures package with the U.S. Department of Justice." McGraw-Hill CEO Simon Allen said in a statement that the divestitures required by the DOJ would have made the agreement "uneconomical." On May 4, Cengage CEO Michael Hansen told analysts in a conference that the likely business impact of Covid-19 had also been a factor in the decision.

Allen said the termination of the merger "will allow each of us to focus on our respective standalone strategies for the benefit of our owners, employees, customers and other stakeholders." He added: "I want to express my deep appreciation for the efforts and incredible commitment demonstrated by McGraw-Hill's employees over the past year and particularly in recent weeks as they have worked tirelessly to help educators make the transition to online learning."

Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general at the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said: "American students were our primary concern when evaluating the possible competitive effects of this deal. The decision to abandon this merger preserves competition in the market for textbook publishing, an important industry in the education sector. Cengage and McGraw-Hill's decision to abandon this merger also preserves innovation, as the two firms compete aggressively in the development of courseware technology."


Peachtree Publishing Company: The Candy Mafia by Lavie Tidhar, illustrated by Daniel Duncan


The Bookstore at the End of the World Expands

The Bookstore at the End of the World, a Bookshop.org storefront launched in March by 15 New York City booksellers who were unemployed or underemployed due to the Covid-19 crisis, now includes 45 booksellers representing 15 shops from seven cities across the U.S., including Portland, Ore., Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Long Island and Mystic, Conn.

Bookstore at the End of the World has thus far sold more than 3,500 books, along with over 450 T-shirts, totaling more than $60,000 in sales. They have also prepared a pre-order list of some of the books they are looking forward to in the coming months.

"We didn't have years-in-the-making mailing lists, or social media accounts, or in-store events, or a monolithic online retailer backing us," the organizers noted. "We are together what we've always been separately: a well-read crew of booksellers making sure that the best of what we know is on offer to the many communities we call home."


University of California Press: A People's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, Volume 3 by Rachel Brahinsky, Alexander Tarr, Bruce Rinehart


Newman New Managing Director of Dymocks

Mark Newman

Retail consultant Mark Newman will assume the role of managing director for Australian book chain Dymocks retail and children's charities arms, effective May 4, Inside Retail reported. He is an executive with more than 25 years of experience in the retail industry globally.

"It’s an honor to be given the opportunity to join this iconic Australian brand," Newman said. "I am looking forward to working with the whole Dymocks team, franchise owners and suppliers on the next chapter in its history."

Steve Cox, Dymocks's former managhing director, left the company in February to head up Destination NSW.


Obituary Note: George Kovach

George Kovach, poet and founding editor of Consequence magazine, died April 12. He was 72. A Vietnam veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars for Valor, Kovach launched Consequence 12 years ago to focus "on the culture and consequences of war. He believed that a high standard of literature and the arts can advance the discourse a democracy needs to govern itself, and that the best writing and visual art, as well as translations of work from other countries that have known war, offer emotional as well as intellectual access to the experiences of victims, combatants, and witnesses. He worked continuously to advance the mission of the journal, publishing it annually, organizing panels, and leading writing groups for Veterans, all to promote a clearer and more nuanced understanding of what's at stake when a country chooses to wage war."

A collection of his poems, The Light Outside, was published by Arrowsmith Press last year.

On behalf of the editorial staff, Consequence editor Catherine Parnell wrote: "A poet and publisher, a kind and generous man, George walked through the world with compassion and empathy, and a strong need to speak to the culture and consequences of war. A Vietnam Veteran, George rarely spoke of his own experience, instead, he created a strong and vibrant platform for others."

In a tribute, author Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai observed that Kovach "worked tirelessly to promote peace. He founded and served for many years as the editor of CONSEQUENCE, the literary magazine addressing the culture and consequences of war.... I met George at the Vietnam-America literary conference in Hanoi back in 2010... Just in January this year, George told me how special the conference had been to him and that he had had our group picture framed and placed on his bookshelf.... Rest in Peace, George. You will live on in the love of your family and many, many friends, as well as in the legacy of your work, which we shall continue."


Notes

Image of the Day: Bookstore Proposal at Faulkner House

Faulkner House Books, New Orleans, La., shared a photo of #LoveintheTimeofCorona, noting: "We opened our currently closed doors to a romantic New Orleanian who wanted to propose to his lady love in our bookstore. We are honored and flattered to be a part of their story."


Video: Indies in the Time of Corona

American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill shared a timely video, Indies in the Time of Corona, noting: "Thanks to Ingram Publisher Services rep Johanna Hynes and her 16-year-old son, Isaac Barnett, for today’s reminder that we’re small but mighty."


Kidlit Coronavirus-fighting Ideas of the Day

Though many states have begun the slow process of reopening, most schools across the country will stick with virtual learning through at least the end of the school year. Since kids and teens will continue their in-home educations, plenty of organizations, individuals and publishers have created virtual resources to educate and entertain. (You can find other kidlit coronavirus-fighting ideas here.)

This week, May 4-10, is Children's Book Week, an annual celebration of books for young people. Founded in 1919, it is "the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country." At-home celebration ideas and resources both printable and virtual can be found at EveryChildaReader.net.

American Public Media launched a storytelling podcast series, Julie's Library, starring Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Watson Hamilton. Episodes will be released weekly for the first six weeks, with more becoming available later in the year. The Bronx Is Reading will hold its third annual Bronx Book Festival virtually on June 6. Keynote speakers include National Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature Jason Reynolds and Gabby Rivera. The book festival is free for all but does require attendees to register in advance. School Library Journal has made its annual Day of Dialog, "a day-long program of author panels, in-depth conversations and keynote talks," a free virtual event to be held on May 27. While this isn't directly for kids, registration is open to librarians and educators.

Shannon Hale, Dean Hale and LeUyen Pham, creators of the wildly popular series The Princess in Black, created a "child-friendly coronavirus public service announcement," called The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus. The harrowing adventure can be downloaded here. Author Leila Sales created an interactive choose-your-own-adventure game specifically designed for the lockdown called "Ada and the Lost Horizon." Players can download "Ada and the Lost Horizon" and follow clues on Sales's Instagram to go on scavenger hunts in their own homes.

And publishers are still doing the impressive work of creating entertaining and edifying virtual events and activities for families at home. Scholastic has "reimagined" its free Scholastic Summer Read-a-Palooza program "to leverage a safe interactive digital community which aims to increase book access and ensure engaging experiences." Scholastic is also offering plenty of resources on its Scholastic Learn at Home page. Mo Willems, working with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Disney Publishing Worldwide, has announced two projects for the month of May: Thank You Thursdays!, a series that will be posted every Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, and The Yo-Yo Mo Show: An Evening of Musical Doodling with Yo-Yo Ma on Sunday, May 31, at 5 p.m. ET. Both programs are available on the Mo Willems page of the Kennedy Center website. Penguin is creating content specifically for YA readers, including a Penguin Teen Zoom Trivia Night on Friday, May 15, in which Marie Lu, Rory Power, Jo Treggiari and Katie Heaney will ask "attendees trivia questions based on the subject or theme of their most recent books." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness


Personnel Changes at St. Martin's

Joe Goldschein has been promoted to v-p, marketing & sales operations, at St. Martin's Publishing Group.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Molly Ball on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Molly Ball, author of Pelosi (Holt, $27.99, 9781250252869).

Tomorrow:
Live with Kelly and Ryan: Hilarie Burton Morgan, author of The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm (HarperOne, $26.99, 9780062862754).

The View: Sean Penn, author of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff: A Novel (Washington Square Press, $16, 9781501189050).


'Harry Potter' Reads Harry Potter

Daniel Radcliffe reading the first chapter of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone/Sorcerer's Stone has launched Wizarding World's latest  Harry Potter at Home lockdown initiative, in which "some of the best-loved faces from global entertainment, music and sport have lent their voices to the story they love by recording videos of themselves reading the timeless first Harry Potter book." Fans can also listen to an audio version of "The Boy Who Lived" exclusively on Spotify.

Other readers will include Stephen Fry, David Beckham, Dakota Fanning, Claudia Kim, Noma Dumezweni and Eddie Redmayne, "with more surprises and special appearances from across the Wizarding World and beyond to come. Each will be reading different sections of this iconic book--with its themes of family, friendship, courage and overcoming adversity--to families around the world," Wizarding World noted.



Books & Authors

Awards: Branford Boase Shortlist

A shortlist has been released for the 2020 Branford Boase Award, which recognizes "an outstanding debut novel for children... [and] highlights the importance of the editor in nurturing new talent." Organizers said they hope to announce the winner September 24 at a ceremony in London.

The winner will receive £1,000 (about $1,245) and, along with the editor, an inscribed crystal plaque. The prize was established in memory of author Henrietta Branford and her editor Wendy Boase, one of the founders of Walker Books, which sponsors the award. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties by Humza Arshad and Henry White, illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, edited by Sharan Matharu and Holly Harris
The Space We're In by Katya Balen, illustrated by Laura Carlin, edited by Lucy Mackay-Sim
A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby, edited by Liz Bankes and Sarah Levison
Bearmouth by Liz Hyder, edited by Sara Odedina
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, edited by Lindsey Heaven
Frostheart by Jamie Littler, edited by Naomi Colthurst
The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton, edited by Naomi Colthurst


Reading with... Najwa Bin Shatwan

photo: Bernard Jarrett

Najwa Bin Shatwan is a Libyan academic and novelist, author of The Horses' Hair (2005), Orange Content (2008) and The Slave Yards (in Arabic, 2016), in addition to collections of short stories, plays and contributions to anthologies. She obtained a master's degree in education from Garyounis University in Benghazi, Libya, and has a doctoral degree in humanities from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. Her story "The Sharp Bend at Al-Bakur" won the ArabLit magazine Story Prize in 2019. Her story collection Catalogue of a Private Life won the English PEN Translates Award in 2019. The English translation of The Slave Yards, shortlisted for the 2017 International Award for Arabic Fiction, was recently published by Syracuse University Press.

On your nightstand now:

There are a number of them, some paper, others on e-reader, all of them literature in translation. I have a bad habit of reading several things at once. Then I mix them up in my head and come up with a new book that doesn't exist!

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was born into an illiterate family, and grew up in a house where there were no books, and of course, no library. I didn't discover reading until I was in middle school and high school, when I began borrowing books from a neighbor boy and a girlfriend of mine. I read Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which dazzled me. This was my first introduction to the world of literature.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel García Márquez, Eduardo Galeano, Ágota Kristóf, Italo Calvino, Abdulrahman Munif and Anton Chekhov.

Books you've faked reading:

The two books I've faked reading are The Green Book written by Muammar Gaddafi, which was mandatory reading in Libya's schools and universities, and Naguib Mahfouz's Children of Gebelawi.

Books you're an evangelist for:

The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf, The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind and Absent by Iraqi novelist Batoul al-Khudairi.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Actually, I've never been drawn to a book just on account of the way it looks. It's happened with clothes, food and friends, but never with books.

Book you hid from your parents:

Since my parents were illiterate, it made no difference whether they saw the books I had or not. However, I did hide books later from the authorities. These include the Bible, which I sneaked across the Libyan-Egyptian border once, as well as The Prince by Machiavelli and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Book that changed your life:

The Qur'an. It determined the course of my life in some senses even before I was born, since it was the book my family held sacred. Then after I was born, I was required as a female to submit to all Qur'anic rulings that pertained to women, such as inheriting only half what a male would, and not having my testimony be admissible in a court of law unless it was backed up either by another female, or a man. Then there were the exclusionary social rules that followed from such teachings, and being viewed as inferior to men in intelligence, piety and overall abilities. I still marvel at how a single book could impact a person's life so completely.

Favorite line from a book:

"Sometimes I feel defeated, but I get up again. I don't know why and I don't know how. But I get up." --Eduardo Galeano

Five books you'll never part with:

The books in question are books I borrowed, and unfortunately, didn't steal but gave back to their owners! They include Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Snow by Orhan Pamuk, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and everything ever written by Libyan novelist Sadeg al-Nayhum.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Books you wish you'd written yourself:

The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf and The Daughters of Allah by Nedim Gürsel.


Book Review

YA Review: Again Again

Again Again by E. Lockhart (Delacorte Press, $18.99 hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9780385744799, June 2, 2020)

Told in overlapping timelines--with multiple scene do-overs--this thought-provoking YA novel plays with the idea of parallel universes as a teenager grapples with love, understanding and forgiveness. Plus a bunch of unruly dogs.

The summer after her junior year at a Massachusetts boarding school, Adelaide attempts to recover from an unexpected breakup with her boyfriend ("I am an egg yolk of misery inside a membrane, and the name of the membrane is Mikey broke up with me"), come to terms with her younger brother's drug addiction and fall in love with someone(s) new. Those are the facts readers can be (mostly) sure of. How all this happens is where it gets tricky.

In Again Again, E. Lockhart, known for tinkering with timelines in Genuine Fraud and for twisting plots in We Were Liars, imagines different but concurrent scenarios for Adelaide's every step. For much of the story, she goes down one path: she pursues a boy she meets during her summer job of walking dogs. But alternate details of the relationship, as represented in different fonts, unfold along parallel routes, much like a choose-your-own-ending story, except "you" don't get to choose--Lockhart does. Even the reality of Adelaide's brother's recovery is up for grabs. In one universe, he dies after the overdose that, in other universes, leads him to treatment. Readers are always kept a little off-balance. Which universe, if any, is real?

In spite of the unusual timeline, which loops readers back to the top of certain sequences again and again, Lockhart keeps the action moving. Scenes are short and just repetitive enough that readers know it's a re-do, but different enough that it's clear this is a synchronous event. Like a refrain in music, each riff offers variations on a theme: Adelaide texts her new love interest and he responds, but the same conversation, with fluctuations in tone and content, occurs three or four times before the thread moves forward again.

What makes Lockhart's approach to storytelling especially intriguing in Again Again is that this is not a sci-fi novel. The worlds are not defined or literal. They are, simply, other possibilities. We make small choices all day long, every day, and others react. The layers of possibility are infinite and exciting. Or disappointing. Or catastrophic. Or... different. It's a way of looking at the world(s) that will come back to readers, again and again. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: Through layered, parallel scenes, this surprising and charming YA novel explores one teenager's existential angst about relationships--romantic, platonic, family and canine.


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