Part memoir, part self-help(ish) book, part something else entirely, Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive seeks to remove the stigma society places on depression, by revealing the author’s own struggles with the disease, as well as peppering the book with facts and statistics on depression and suicide. Super personal and very raw, I see this as a sort of companion to Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is structured in a very similar manner. Warning: this one is not nearly as light-hearted, but equally helpful.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (★★★☆☆½)
Baby Teeth stars a pint-sized sociopath with designs to kill her mother, the mother herself, and the father who is completely oblivious to his wife and daughter’s true selves. You know, totally normal family dynamic type stuff. The story is made up of alternating chapters that switch between the crazed daughter who is too smart/demonic to be believable, and her mother, who is convinced she will never be a good enough wife and mother. While a super interesting premise — mostly because the kid is not alright — the plot definitely drags at times.
Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Florence “Sally” Horner, a crime that would go on to inspire the Vladimir Nabokov classic Lolita. Despite being pulled straight from history, Greenwood’s novel is less a true crime story and more historical fiction, exploring the horrors that Sally was most likely forced to endure during her 21-month ordeal, and the ramifications it had on the people in her life. This heartbreaking and beautifully written novel deserves every single star (and then some).
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On the outside, Scream All Night looks like a horror novel, but twist: it’s actually a coming of age story. The YA debut follows emancipated teen Dario, who is forced back into the family business (which just so happens to be his father’s B-horror movie film studio). Full of an eccentric cast of characters and some tough subject matter, Milman’s novel explores what happens when the monsters are found behind the camera. [Read our creator Q&A with author Derek Milman.]
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen (★★★★★)
I loved this super fast-paced science fiction story more than I ever could have imagined. Full of complex characters and shocking twists and turns, Nyxia features a definitely evil corporation who are taking young people to another planet to mine a mysterious material know as Nyxia. What could go wrong? Since this is the first book in the series, it’s focused solely on the kid’s training before arriving on Eden, a second earth-like planet inhabited by humanoid creatures known as Adamites.
The Traitor’s Kiss started off super promising, but unfortunately, things got real dumb real fast, and the story completely lost me toward the end. Set during an indistinguishable time period where everyone has to be paired by a matchmaker, this book definitely should have been a standalone novel. While things start off great with the matchmaking stuff, this far superior/way more interesting section was mostly glossed over to make way for a time jump and some nonsensical plot about spies and secret princes for no reason.
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Actor and horror movie aficionado Derek Milman’s debut novel Scream All Night is a love letter to classic B-horror movies, but it’s also a coming of age story about Dario Heyward, the son of an infamous director who knows that monsters are sometimes found behind the camera.
After legally emancipating himself from his legendary father, Lucien, Dario is forced to return to Moldavia Studios — the real-life castle and filming location for all of Lucien’s movies — at the behest of his older brother, and is sucked back into the life he worked so hard to escape.
On its surface, the story is a fun look at the eccentric cast and crew of a movie studio, and an exploration of the B-horror movie genre, but it’s really a deep dive into grief, trauma and mental illness.
To learn more about his first novel, we sat down with Derek (virtually of course), to talk about all things SAN.
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