The longer evenings might be here but that doesn’t mean curling up with a book before bedtime is out of the question. Below are three of our favourite chosen reads for the month of May, and perfect if you need a Netflix break.
In J.P. Pomare’s Call Me Evie (Sphere, approx. €13.99, out now) Kate Bennet has had something bad happen to her. Really bad. Our 17-year-old narrator is feisty and trying to flee from an older man, Jim, who isn’t really her uncle. He says he’s keeping her safe, that it’s for her own good when, in fact, he is keeping her a virtual prisoner in a rural, isolated New Zealand hideout. If it’s all for her own good, then why did he shave her head and start calling her Evie? They are on the run, that much is clear. But why? And from whom? Jim, who will only refer to those they are running from as they, won’t say anything about it. But Evie knows something terrible happened. A video. Humiliation. Rage. Only she can’t remember a thing. Slowly shifting between before she fell into Jim’s clutches and afterwards, she tries to remember; to piece together what happened that traumatic night so she can finally make her escape. You might think you can foresee the end, but you have no idea. This is a striking, meticulous debut – and you’ll never see those jaw-dropping twists coming. Gripping psychological suspense at its very best.
John Boyne adds his deft sensitivity to the complex topic of transgenderism in his book for young adults, My Brother’s Name is Jessica (Puffin, approx. €11.99, out now). Thirteen-year-old Sam Waver idolises his big brother Jason; they are each other’s shadow. The boys are loved yet largely left to their own devices with their mum being a Cabinet Minister and dad her private secretary. It’s a problem for Jason, who, as the older of the two, notices they do not come first – home life is secondary for their parents. Sam is going through his own teenage issues when Jason makes an announcement, a personal revelation about changes of his own: he believes he has always been a girl, trapped inside a boy’s body. Naturally, this news causes some turmoil for the Weaver family who must adapt to Jason, now Jessica, and her transition and adjustment – and she to theirs. Sam is the young narrator and though the story is very much seen through his innocence, its topics have a quiet maturity; the change, the loss, the new sister and daughter gained.
Grief is never a straight line. This is what Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted (Viking, approx. €12.99, out May 30) explores using a unique blend of scientific rationality and spirituality. Helen, in her forties, is an MIT physics professor renowned in her field. A single mother by choice she is shaken to learn of the sudden death of her best friend, Charlie Boyce, whom she met while at Harvard. She hadn’t seen Charlie in a year prior to her death, so why are Helen and her seven-year-old son, Jack, so sure they see her everywhere? Her presence undoubtedly lingers, but Helen is sceptical of anything supernatural – even when she continues receiving eerily knowing text messages from Charlie’s cell phone, the same one Charlie’s husband hadn’t been able to find in a year. The author’s clever use of the integration of ideas from physics challenges the reader to think differently about time, existence and how we survive in times of turmoil. Helen has lost not only her best friend but the lives they could have had together and this is illustrated beautifully in the novel.
Main photograph: Unsplash