New books by alumni and faculty.
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer ’81 (Dutton Books for Young Readers). In Wolitzer’s first YA novel, Jamaica Gallahue comes unraveled following the death of her boyfriend. After her parents pack her off to a Vermont school for “emotionally fragile” teens, Jam finds herself in Mrs. Quenell’s “Special Topics in English” class, where she meets four equally troubled classmates who for one semester read only the work of Sylvia Plath. The twist is that they must also write in special red leather journals that have the power to briefly transport them back to a time before tragedy interrupted their lives.
The Risk of Reading: How Literature Helps Us to Understand Ourselves and the World by Robert P. Waxler ’66 (Bloomsbury). Waxler argues that in these speedy, image-saturated digital times we risk losing the habit of reading deeply. With chapters that act as companions to an array of novels, including Frankenstein, The Catcher in the Rye, and Fight Club, Waxler, a UMass Dartmouth English professor, argues that deep reading forces us to slow down and that losing ourselves in literature allows us to return to regular life with fresh eyes.
The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy ’01 (Grand Central). This grisly, inventive thriller is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition to the Pacific. Set 150 years into the future, it takes us to a world ravaged by a deadly flu-like virus and then nuclear war. The few survivors are huddled in the Sanctuary, a walled city built on the remains of St. Louis. A restless band, led by Mina Clark and Lewis Meriwether, escapes and treks through the desert-like Dead Lands, which teem with huge spiders and giant-clawed cats, to a land beyond the Cascades, where, if rumors are correct, civilization still exists.