cover image You Know You Want This

You Know You Want This

Kristen Roupenian. Scout, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0163-3

Roupenian’s solid debut is highlighted by moments of startling insight into the hidden—and often uncomfortable—truths underneath modern relationships. “Cat Person,” which caused a sensation when it was first published in the New Yorker in 2017, is an unrelentingly, almost painfully, honest and perfectly rendered dramatization of the millennial heterosexual relationship and all its attendant anxieties and violences. The other stories, about sex, power, and personhood, range from the highly conceptual—in “Scarred,” a woman magically summons what she thinks is her heart’s desire, before she realizes the sacrifices one must make to truly attain it—to the aggressively realistic—in one of the best stories, “The Good Guy,” readers are immersed into the train wreck thought process of Ted, who is certifiably and pathologically not like other guys, except, of course, that he is actually like so many guys. Another strong entry is “Death Wish,” in which a divorced man living in a motel meets a girl on Tinder; when she shows up at his motel room, she has an unusual and upsetting sexual request for him. Though some stories don’t land and rely too much on explication, there are some stellar moments of pithy clarity: In “Scarred,” upon summoning a way to cheat desire, the protagonist muses, “I had everything that could be wanted. I invented new needs just to satisfy.” This is a promising debut. (Jan.)