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PEOPLE PICK

Big Brother

by Lionel Shriver |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

The author of 11 previous novels, including We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shriver has earned a reputation for tackling hot-button issues, including high school shootings and the health care system. This time she turns her sharp eye on morbid obesity, introducing us to a married Iowa couple, Fletcher and Pandora, and their “guest who will not leave,” Pandora’s 400-lb. brother Edison. Edison’s intrusion throws the couple’s life into chaos while also educating them about the plight of the seriously overweight. When Pandora brings Edison to her workplace, “My impulse to protect my brother from my employees was disconcerting; my first introductions were tainted with a challenging demeanor, like, So? What are you looking at? that made my workers glance to the floor.” Shriver knows this territory well: Her own obese brother died from cardiac arrest at the age of 55. Her delicious, highly readable novel highlights Fletcher and Pandora’s ambivalence and raises challenging questions about how much a loving person can give to another without sacrificing his or her own well-being.

The Bling Ring

by Nancy Jo Sales |

REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

NON-FICTION

American teens love celebrities. You know what they love even more? Celebrity stuff. Which is the jumping-off point for Sales’s shocking, and yet somehow inevitable, story of a group of upper-middle-class L.A. kids whose obsession with fame compels them to swipe $3 million worth of swag from the homes of equally fame-obsessed starlets, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton among them. (Hilton plays herself in the upcoming Sofia Coppola film.) Sales, a superlative reporter, asks the question for all of us: Why would well-off kids take that risk? One of their lawyers sums up their motivation and, perhaps, our national gestalt: “If I have what they have, then I’ll be like them. If I can dress like they dress, my problems will go away, my pain will go away….”

Crazy Rich Asians

by Kevin Kwan |

REVIEWED BY CAROL MEMMOTT

NOVEL

There’s rich, there’s filthy rich, and then there’s crazy rich. Kwan’s debut takes us to Singapore high society, where, as one character notes, “this crowd made Upper East Side girls look like Mennonites.” A Pride and Prejudice-like send-up about an heir bringing his Chinese-American girlfriend home to meet his ancestor-obsessed family, the book hilariously skewers imperial splendor and the conniving antics of the Asian jet set.

Sparta

by Roxana Robinson |

NOVEL

In this page-turner, Robinson brings us inside the homecoming of Marine Conrad Farrell, an Iraq War veteran. As his military plane approaches his Katonah, N.Y., home, Farrell anticipates his reunion with his girlfriend and family, realizing “he couldn’t prepare himself, because he wasn’t the person they were expecting to meet.” Farrell’s fresh memories of unspeakable horrors keep him in a purgatory between past and present. Robinson’s fifth novel is an exceptional account of life after war.

The Lullaby of Polish Girls

by Dagmara Dominczyk |

REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

This compelling coming-of-age story follows Anna, who immigrates to Brooklyn with her family as a child in the ’80s, and Justyna and Kamila, the friends she makes on her return visits to Poland. Dominczyk uses a fresh, confident style to trace their journeys into young adulthood, creating an original portrait of friendship and identity.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com