Spring brings blooms and growth and change—just like the characters in these excellent April novels, each thought-provoking and enthralling in its own way. Whether or not they want to, these young men and women have a lot to learn, and readers will find much to enjoy in their journeys into early adulthood.
Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick
Gifted Russian teenager Ilya arrives in the U.S. for an academic exchange year, but like many young people trying to make their own way, he’s distracted by events back home. But Ilya has a good reason: His drug-addicted older brother has been accused of multiple murders. With the help of his host family’s daughter, Ilya tries to prove his brother’s innocence by scouring the internet, and the result is a darkly beautiful, intense tale of guilt, secrets and inescapable truth. It’s worth noting that the author’s writing is breathtaking, which is perfectly suited to the story’s measured pace; all the better to linger, my dear. Read our review.
The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler
In the 19th century, a real-life stage magician named Lulu Hurst, known as the “Georgia Wonder,” captivated audiences with her apparent super-strength. Handler’s novel pulls from Lulu’s life to tell a story of growing up and growing away from the person you once were. As a girl, Lulu finds a book in her father’s study and learns her special skills, and she slowly transforms from a gawky, small-town farmer’s daughter to a well-known, alluring performer. When her performance goes on tour, she begins to see her parents and their shortcomings more clearly, and the reader is fully immersed in this introspection and process of self-discovery. Read our review.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Rooney became a literary sensation in her native Ireland with the release of her debut novel, Conversations with Friends. Her brilliant, Booker Prize-nominated new novel has only enhanced her reputation. Set in a small Irish town, it stars two 16-year-olds—uncool Marianne and football star Connell—who have different financial backgrounds and an unavoidable connection. It’s a bond that carries through their college years, when they become more like friends than lovers, though something deeper continues to simmer. Read our starred review.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Remember first love? Intense, obsessive, probably gross—and everyone at your high school was talking about it. Choi’s latest novel takes that intensity to a place we never would’ve expected. At the risk of spoilers, all we can reveal is that the first part of the book stars two rising sophomores who had a relationship and then broke up, as well as an acting teacher and a classmate named Karen. The rest of the novel challenges the very nature of fiction. Read our review.
A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie
With her latest novel, Beattie serves up an unflinchingly bleak—albeit sometimes laugh-out-loud humorous—serving of millennial malaise. For young Ben and his posse at Bailey Academy, most of the grown-ups in their lives are either dead, dying or dysfunctional. After 9/11, the students draw even closer to their creepy teacher Pierre LaVerdere, and once again, it’s a connection that lasts long into adulthood. Read our review.