Feature

Also of interest…in teenage highs and lows

The Dinner; Y; The Love Song of Jonny Valentine; Out of the Easy  

The Dinnerby Herman Koch (Hogarth, $24)Herman Koch “tells a story that could very well take away your appetite,” said Carol Memmott in USA Today. Two couples meet at an elite restaurant after their 15-year-old sons have committed a shocking crime involving a homeless woman. By the dessert course, “you can’t turn away from the horror” as they try to justify the boys’ acts. This is the Dutch author’s first English-language translation. If his other books are half as good as The Dinner, “we’ll want to devour all of them.”

Yby Marjorie Celona (Free Press, $25)With her debut novel, Marjorie Celona has created “an unforgettable heroine,” said Meganne Fabrega in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Shannon, the adolescent narrator, was left on the doorstop of a YMCA as an infant, and she spends the book torn between trying to find her biological parents and trying not to lose the love of her adoptive mother. As Shannon wanders a new city, “her need to fit in is palpable and heartbreaking,” making her story “impossible to forget.”

The Love Song of Jonny Valentineby Teddy Wayne (Free Press, $25)“If Jonny Valentine does nothing else, it makes you loath to crack easy jokes about child stars,” said Will Boast in the San Francisco Chronicle. Author Teddy Wayne “generates considerable sympathy” for his title character, a preteen pop singer obviously modeled on Justin Bieber. The kid is “trapped at the center of the churning entertainment machine.” But this “highly diverting” novel suffers a curious burden: When Bieber’s real-life out-of-nowhere story is so bizarre, how does a novelist compete?

Out of the Easyby Ruta Sepetys (Philomel, $18)Most girls fear becoming their mothers, “but for the daughters of prostitutes, the stakes are momentous,” said Darcey Steinke in The New York Times. In this young-adult novel, a bright teenager in 1950s New Orleans learns that intelligence and drive might not be enough to keep her from walking her mother’s path. The gangsters who populate this drama-packed story lean toward cliché, but the spirited Josie makes a good guide to an almost too beguiling underworld.

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