What Else We've Been Reading
An ode to inner city Melbourne and gay male friendship, The Adversary very precisely and intimately describes that in between time when you're not quite an adult but have decidedly departed adolescence. Borrowing from the blurb, it's a "sticky summer novel about young people exploring their sexuality and their sociability, where everything smells like sunscreen and tastes like beer, but affections and alliances have consequences". There is something so compelling about the pace of the book despite not much happening (this is entirely the point). Warm, wise and a wonderful strand of droll, reading this impressive debut was pure delight.
A fascinating social commentary about gender roles, class divisions and plastic surgery in South Korea. The novel follows five young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchies, and K-pop fan mania. It reads both as a scathing indictment of misogyny and unnatural expectations, as well as a slice of life study of female friendship. The book's plot lines aren't perfect and, at times, the story is intolerably bleak, but the insight and compassion with which Cha creates her female characters is masterful and moving.
Set in a backwater Texas oil town in 1976, this enormously intense and gripping novel explores the ramifications of a brutal crime and exposes a toxic culture that breeds racism and violence against women. You might think that sounds overwhelmingly grim, and you'd be correct, but Wetmore's writing is so commanding and her cast of female narrators crafted so empathetically that you'll read this like an exhilarating thriller. A galvanising, feminist tale that is being compared to the likes of Cormac McCarthy and Barbara Kingsolver (no biggie).