Quirky social commentary

Summer is wrapping up, but you’ve still got time for great vacation reads. These selections range from funny and quirky to more serious social commentary. These novels may make you look at those around you a little differently. Find a beach, a pool or a comfy seat in the AC and escape into one of these new releases.

1. Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Jen Dixon is not a typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom. In addition to her husband and 5-year-old son, she has two college-age daughters by two different musicians. Jen tackles the other kindergarten moms and school politics with radical directness and humor. Her obstacles include an old flame, a hyper-sensitive “allergy mom,” a sexy kindergarten teacher and a Real Housewife-wannabe.

“What fun to root for our hilariously human heroine Jen as she navigates her role as class mom exactly the way we all dream of doing it—with humor and what appears to be a serious addiction to truth serum. Finally, a free-spirited character who says the things we are all thinking but are too scared to say out loud. A total joy to read.”—Caroline Rhea, comedian

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2. The Locals by Jonathan Dee

Set in small-town America in the aftermath of 9/11 this novel explores the inequalities of rural vs. urban and middle class vs. wealthy. This is the story of two very different men, a home builder and a billionaire money manager, and how their worlds intersect and collide.

“Good old social novels are hard to come by these days, great ones harder still. Leave it to [Jonathan] Dee to fill the void with a book that’s not only great but so frighteningly timely that the reader will be forced to wonder how he managed to compose it before the last election cycle.”—Booklist (starred review)

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3. The Talented Ribkins by Ladee Hubbard

72 year-old Johnny Ribkins has one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss. Could he use his family’s odd superpowers to help? Johnny’s power is to make precise maps of any space, whether he’s been there or not. His cousin belches fire. He discovers his niece has a special, possibly helpful superpower and she’s willing to be his sidekick.

This big-hearted novel about race, class, politics and the unique gifts that bind a family is inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’s famous essay The Talented Tenth.

“For sheer reading pleasure Ladee Hubbard’s original and wildly inventive novel is in a class by itself.” –Toni Morrison

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4. The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

Marion Palm embezzled $180,000 from her daughter’s private school, but she doesn’t consider herself a thief. When her embezzling is discovered, she gathers cash from her hiding places and flees, leaving her family to deal with the mess. The story is told from the points of view of Marion, her husband, teenage daughter and her youngest daughter.

“This debut novel has what many others lack: a wicked sense of humor. VERDICT: With her mordant wit, deft plotting, and clever storytelling, Culliton is a young novelist to watch.”
—Leslie Patterson, Library Journal (Starred Review)

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5. Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

After being publicly shamed nationally for an affair with her boss, a beloved married congressman, Aviva changes her name and moves to a remote town. She starts over as a wedding planner and raises her daughter to be strong and confident. When Aviva decides to run for office (under her new name) her past mistake trails her on the web like a Scarlet A. She worries about losing her daughter’s respect.

“Splendid . . . A witty, strongly drawn group of female voices tells Aviva’s story . . . [Zevin] has created a fun and frank tale. Her vibrant and playful writing, and the fully realized characters taking turns as narrator, bring the story a zestful energy, even while exploring dark themes of secrecy and betrayal. Zevin perfectly captures the realities of the current political climate and the consequences of youthful indiscretions in an era when the Internet never forgets.”—Booklist 

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Jennifer Jones

I’m the library’s fiction selector and I’ve been suggesting new books to library and bookmobile customers for over 17 years. I keep up on all the new book reviews, and my favorite question is “What are you reading?” I love to talk about books and to read books. I like to tell library customers, “Try something new. If you don’t like it, at least the price is right!”