Lucky Stars comes of age this month with tales that bring into focus the blurred lines between innocence and maturity. Embrace the uncertainty of that time of life and find worlds full of danger, violence, secrets, love and fall-down-laughing humor. These novels that will charm, delight and frighten — just as your teenage years did. And these e-books come with a price worthy of nostalgia at $3.99 or less throughout March.
The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff: It’s 1977. Jacob Green, a Jewish kid from suburban New Jersey, sits on the stairs during his family’s housewarming party, waiting for his father, Abram — charming host, everyone’s best friend, and amateur emcee — to introduce him to the crowd. Housewarming parties, Annie Hall parties, and bar mitzvah parties punctuate Jacob’s childhood and require command performances by all the Green family members.
But when the confetti settles and the drapes are drawn, the affable Abram Green becomes an egotistical tyrant whose emotional rages rupture the lives of his family. Jacob doesn’t mean to disappoint his father, but he can’t help thinking the most unthinkable (and very funny) thoughts about public-school humiliation, Hebrew-school disinclination, and in-home sex education (with the live-in nanny!).
If only his mother hadn’t started college at thirty-six (and fallen for her psychology professor). If only he were more like his rebellious older brother (suspended from Hebrew school for drawing the rabbi in a threesome with a lobster and a pig). If only Jacob could confront his overbearing father and tell him he doesn’t want to sing in synagogue, attend est classes, write the perfect thank-you note, or even live in the same house with Abram Green. But, of course, he can’t. That would be unthinkable.
This self-assured, comic, yet piercing first novel deftly captures the struggle of an imperfect boy trying to become a suitable son.
Winter Birds by Jim Grimsley: Winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. On a snowy Thanksgiving day in North Carolina, a dreamy eight-year-old is pushed headlong into the adult world by a violent quarrel between his parents. Jim Grimsley’s brilliant first novel unfolds in a strikingly unconventional way–as the boy tells himself his own story. A shattering story of heartbreak, violence, and the endurance of the spirit. “Tell everyone.”–Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina.
When Tito Loved Clara by Jon Michaud: Clara Lugo grew up in a home that would have rattled the most grounded of children. Through brains and determination, she has long since slipped the bonds of her confining Dominican neighborhood in the northern reaches of Manhattan. Now she tries to live a settled professional life with her American husband and son in the suburbs of New Jersey—often thwarted by her constellation of relatives who don’t understand her gringa ways. Her mostly happy life is disrupted, however, when Tito, a former boyfriend from fifteen years earlier, reappears. Something has impeded his passage into adulthood. His mother calls him an Unfinished Man. He still carries a torch for Clara; and she harbors a secret from their past. Their reacquaintance sets in motion an unraveling of both of their lives and reveals what the cost of assimilation—or the absence of it—has meant for each of them. This immensely entertaining novel—filled with wit and compassion—marks the debut of a fine writer.
Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead: When Robey Childs’s mother has a premonition about her husband, a soldier fighting in the Civil War, she does the unthinkable: she sends her only child to find his father on the battlefield and bring him home.
At fourteen, wearing the coat his mother sewed to ensure his safety—blue on one side, gray on the other— Robey thinks he’s off on a great adventure. But not far from home, his horse falters and he realizes the enormity of his task. It takes the gift of a powerful and noble coal black horse to show him how to undertake the most important journey of his life: with boldness, bravery, and self-posession.
Coal Black Horse joins the pantheon of great war novels—All Quiet on the Western Front, The Red Badge of Courage, The Naked and the Dead.
Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont: When Catherine Morrow is admitted to the Esther Percy School for Girls, it’s on the condition that she reform her ways. But that’s before the beautiful and charismatic Skye Butterfield, daughter of the famous Senator Butterfield, chooses Catherine for her best friend. Skye is in love with danger and the thrill of breaking rules, taking risks, and crossing boundaries, no matter the stakes. The problem is, the stakes keep getting higher, and Catherine can neither resist Skye nor stop her from taking down everyone around her.
De Gramont’s chilling novel is a portrait of the seductions of adolescence in all their beauty and terror. Caught in this alluring world, the girls of Esther Percy are optimistic and willful, loving and selfish, daring and cruel—all the while believing they’re utterly indestructible.