cover image Delicate Monsters

Delicate Monsters

Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin, $19.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-06384-7

Kuehn’s lacerating third novel centers on three deeply damaged teenagers, the “delicate monsters” of the title. Sadie, the half-Chinese daughter of a well-to-do California vineyard owner, is a sadist who has returned home to Sonoma after her role in the near-death of a classmate at her most recent boarding school. Her classmate and former childhood friend, Emerson, seems more sympathetic at first—it isn’t his fault that his father committed suicide, leaving the family in poverty—but he, too, has dark secrets. Then there is Emerson’s younger brother, Miles: physically and mentally ill, possibly psychic, and a nonstop victim of their high school’s bullies. Amid virtually useless parents, teachers, and counselors, and plenty of alcohol, sex, and pain, these three stagger through the agonies of past and present, hurting each other and others as they go. Kuehn (Complicit) once again proves herself a talented writer in a tough, punishing novel about the damages we inflict on others and the shaky defenses we build to mask trauma and guilt. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June)