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An Entertainment Weekly Pick for April 2017
An Elle Magazine Pick of the 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017
An Amazon Best Book of the Month for April 2017
A BuzzFeed Books Pick of Incredible New Books to Read This Spring
A Publishers Weekly Pick of Writers to Watch, Spring 2017 Debuts
A BookPage Book of the Day for April 18, 2017
An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades
Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair.
As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby.
Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.
Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.
“A novel of deep and exquisite intelligence, humor, and riveting sensitivity.”
Lorrie Moore, New York Times bestselling author
“Julie Buntin captures that unique moment at the precipice of adulthood with emotional honesty and insight. She writes the kind of piercing, revelatory sentences you have to read to whomever is near, sentences you find yourself remembering years later.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times bestselling author
“At every turn, Buntin’s prose flows with the easy, confident rhythms of an accomplished writer, and though there’s really no mystery in the narrative, it reads nearly as compulsively as a thriller…Marlena’s vivid portrait of a friendship between two teenage girls in a troubled community—one who made out, and one who didn’t—viscerally captures the sensations and heartaches of adolescence.”
“In her impressive debut novel, Buntin displays a remarkable control of tone and narrative arc…Poignant and unforgettable.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful…Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory. Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Buntin’s prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque.”
“This gorgeous, assured debut captures the romance of young friendship, cutting deep with the finest touch.”
Julia Pierpont, author of Among the Ten Thousand Things