Alessandra in Agony
Warning: This is a story of what it feels like to be obsessed with someone who is entirely undeserving of your affection. Contains partial nudity, mild vulgarity, and singing grandfathers.
Observant, satirical, and preposterously precocious, Alessandra may be the coolest 18-year-old you’ve ever met—she’s the editor of the school literary magazine—a true original.
She is a “character” in the halls of Westfield High School. With her long red hair, her flamboyant style, and her sardonic humor, almost everybody in school knows who she is. When you hear somebody say, ‘There’s a girl in my chemistry class wearing a wedding dress,’ you can be pretty sure they’re talking about Alessandra.
That’s 11th grade superstar Mason Lorenz’s description of Alessandra. And now, of course, Alessandra finds herself half in love with Mason—though her best friend Melissa warns her:
“God, can’t you see it, Alessandra?”
“You’re attracted to anyone you can’t have! That is the story of your life.”
“Really? You’ve read the entire story of my life? How does it end?”
Alessandra’s senior year is a kind of comic agony, and in this fast-paced, entertaining new-adult novel, author Robert Kaplow (Me and Orson Welles) takes a close-up, high-resolution look at her life, her loves, her merciless sense of satire, her illness, her yearning, and an act of betrayal that finally forces her to engineer some highly-satisfying revenge.
I’m not sure whether this story is a tragedy or a comedy. It begins in a cemetery; it ends at a graduation. Someone will die—angry and alone; someone will grieve—also alone. At least two characters will fall in love, and nearly all of them will find something to laugh about. It would be pleasant to perceive this story as a journey out of grief towards some wider, welcoming place, but that remains to be seen. If anything approaching wisdom arises from this tale, maybe it’s simply the gratitude that sometimes friendship can serve as a lifeline to pull us back to shore—to save us.
The NPR humorist and award-winning author of Me and Orson Welles returns to fiction with The Lifers: the funny/sad story of a decades-long male friendship. The Lifers chronicles a year in the lives of two friends in their late thirties, Kenneth and Marty. Before the year is over both men will go through a firestorm of emotions—and both will survive with their sense of humor and sense of self still intact. Kenneth is a teacher of English looking for meaning in the face of overwhelming loss. Marty is an administrator trying to navigate a collapsing marriage and a political coup right out of The Caine Mutiny.
In a voice that’s wickedly funny and sometimes heartbreaking, The Lifers is a celebration of friendship that’s filled with characters finally learning to reconcile themselves to change, death, and the possibility of beauty.
Rutgers Girl: Naked in Italy
Here’s what I remember from my freshman year at Rutgers. I had an affair with an older man. I had an affair with a younger man. I sang the song “Moon River” at the grave of the man who wrote it. I visited a magnificent church in Venice and promptly threw up on the floor. And I realized that my friends, whom I’d always thought of as the minor characters in my story, were, in fact, the major characters.
It was 2007. It was a different world. I was 19 years old, and since most of this tale is drawn from the two journals I kept that year, I would prefer to let that girl tell the story. I am pleased to report that I survived that woebegone year with my sense of humor largely intact, but when I read over my story now it strikes me that I spent much of my freshman year at Rutgers living entirely in dreamland.
And then I finally woke up.
Drugs! Sex! Travel! Betrayal! None of these matters very much in Rutgers Girl: Naked in Italy. This new romantic comedy by the NPR humorist and award-winning author of Me and Orson Welles is the first-person journal of a 19 year-old Rutgers freshman who manages to navigate a tempestuous first year of college while maintaining her humor and her heart. And, OK, she does run headlong into drugs, sex, travel, and betrayal…but her story is far more engaging than that because what we’re really witnessing is an extremely self-aware young woman in the process of inventing herself—right in front of our eyes.
Praise for the work of Robert Kaplow:
—Edward Sorel, author/illustrator, Profusely Illustrated
Playland: A Slightly Subversive Love Story
The award-winning author of Me and Orson Welles has written a new novel set against the lost world of New York City in the summer and fall of 1972. Playland: A Slightly Subversive Love Story chronicles what it feels like when a first love ends.
David and Stacey are intelligent, ambitious, acerbic high-school seniors—wise beyond their years—who decide to live together in New York City rather than attend college as their friends and families expect, and we follow their struggle to hang on to their humor and passion as they attempt to make a mark on the world.
Playland: A Slightly Subversive Love Story is a closely-observed character study—a vivid snapshot of a lost moment in time. In the end, both David and Stacey survive, and, on their own unsentimental terms, even triumph.
Me And Orson Welles
Now a major motion picture from acclaimed director Richard Linklater, starring Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Ben Chaplin.
An irresistible romantic farce that reads like a Who’s Who of the classic American theater, Me and Orson Welles is set during the launch of the then twenty-two-year-old Orson Welles’ debut production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre on Broadway. Beautifully translated to screen by Richard Linklater, the film stars Zac Efron as Richard Samuels, a stage-struck seventeen-year-old from New Jersey who wanders onto the set and accidentally gets cast in the show, forever changing his life as he becomes caught in a vortex of celebrity, ego, art, and love.
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
If you want to take a trip back to New York in the 1930s, when Orson Welles was setting the theater world on its ear, get a hold of Robert Kaplow’s Me and Orson Welles. What a wonderful evocation of that period. A total joy.
—Edward Sorel, author/illustrator, Profusely Illustrated
Alex Icicle: A Romance in Ten Torrid Chapters
Has any boy ever loved a girl the way Alex loves Amy? Has there ever been a passion so intense, so ludicrous, so heartbreaking, so funny? Alex is fourteen years old. He’s a sort of literary genius (or so he would like us to believe.) But when he falls under the spell of the thrillingly beautiful and elusive Amy Hart, his world falls to pieces. And she’s moving to California in 26 days! He has got to tell her. He has got to tell her how he feels about her Indian moccasins…her striped socks…her self-mocking smile…the shape of her strong shoulders; the paleness of her face; the petulance of her lower lip; the way her hair falls against her cheek.…
—Literature for Today’s Young Adults
Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America
What do bestselling writers Sue Grafton, Danielle Steel, Curtis Sittenfeld (“Prep”) and Tom Clancy all have in common? They’ve all been murdered in a manner both gruesome and appropriate to their style. An extremely paranoid Steven King is convinced that he will be the next victim, and so he must leave his heavily-barricaded fortress in Bangor, Maine, to discover Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America? This hilarious send-up of the world of publishing by the author of Me and Orson Welles and The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun takes us from Venice to Paris to Maine and offers cameo appearances by Steve Martin, Gerard Depardieu, plus a few surprises.
Actor/comedian Arte Johnson reads the opening of Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America? ©Phoenix Books
The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun
America’s most beloved writer, Lilian Jackson Braun, author of twenty-four Cat Who… mysteries is now the subject of a mystery herself. In this spoof by one of her most ardent admirers, her beheaded body has been discovered in the men’s room of a gay bar in Lower Manhattan. The police are baffled, and so it is up to Braun’s eccentric writer friend, James Q. (Qafka), and his Siamese cats Ying-Ton and Poon-Tang to solve the ghastly mystery. Q.’s quest leads him on a hilarious, ribald chase that’s a cross between a story by Lenny Bruce and Dashiell Hammett. Before it’s done we’ve encountered Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth, a sex-starved suburban housewife, a mysterious Hollywood diary, Britney Spears, an ancient secret society, and two gifted cats whose trail of urine and hairballs leads Q. and his spunky undergraduate assistant to finally unravel the riddle of The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun.
Actor/comedian Arte Johnson reads the opening of The Cat Who Killed Lilian Jackson Braun. ©Phoenix Books
—The Globe and Mail
Alessandra in Love
Alessandra is hopelessly in love, and this time it’s for real. When tall, dark, and handsome Wyn Reed walks into orchestra class for the first time, Alessandra’s heart stands up and sings the Hallelujah Chorus. Wyn is a talented cellist with ambitions to get a scholarship to Juilliard. He’s everything Alessandra’s romantic imagination could hope for, and best of all, he likes her! Now the problem for Alessandra is Wyn’s other friend, Debbie. Wyn says Debbie is just an old friend—and ex-girlfriend to be exact—but he still seems to be involved with her. What does that mean for Alessandra’s friendship with Wyn? How does Wyn feel about Alessandra, and how far does she have to go to find out? Is Alessandra really in love? The story of Alessandra’s first romance is sometimes funny, sometimes painful, but never ordinary. Considering Alessandra’s unique combination of shyness, creativity, and outrageous sense of humor, it’s bound to be an unusual story—and one that only Alessandra can tell.
—ALA Booklist, (starred review)