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Marlena is a vivid portrayal of an intoxicating friendship and the dangers it leads to; perfect for fans of The Girls by Emma Cline and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat's new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbour, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena's orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blonde hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts - first drink, first cigarette, first kiss - while Marlena's habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.
Alive with an urgent, unshakeable tenderness, Julie Buntin's Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull ourselves back from the brink.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
The gifted young writer Julie Buntin has written a novel of deep and exquisite intelligence, humour and riveting sensitivity. A terrific debut -- Lorrie Moore Julie Buntin captures that unique moment at the precipice of adulthood with emotional honesty and insight. She writes the kind of piercing, revelatory sentences you have to read to whomever is near, sentences you find yourself remembering years later -- Jonathan Safran Foer [A] vivid debut. . . .Buntin's prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque * Booklist * Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful, makes coming-of-age stories feel both urgent and new. It could so easily be cliched or sentimental. It is neither. Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory. Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous. * Kirkus * One of this year's buzziest debuts * Vogue * Smart, sassy, sexy * Red * Marlena felt urgent and alive. It's shocking and disturbing, but its depiction of an intense, obsessive friendship felt nuanced and heartbreakingly real. * Stylist * In Marlena, Julie Buntin revitalizes a classic story making it all her own with sensuous, vibrant prose and a narrator who feels deeply even as she feints certain painful truths about herself. In these pages I not only saw my own story, I came to understand it better. Many readers will too. This is a fierce and gorgeous debut -- Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California Marlena slayed me. Gorgeously written, with a sense of place so perfect I didn't even have to close my eyes to pretend I was there, this novel is rich and sensuous and beautifully conceived. Buntin writes about the all-consuming bond between teenage girls with urgency and suspense and despair. I loved every word -- Anton DiSclafani, bestselling author of The After Party and The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls Mesmerizing . . . an indelible portrait of friendship, the power of influence and the kind of regret that can last a lifetime * Harpers Bazaar * Buntin's prose crackles like static electricity . . . she explores addiction and loss with poetic tenderness * New York Observer * Beautifully descriptive . . . This generous, sensitive novel of true feeling is at its most moving when it sweeps you up . . . a painful exorcism and a devoted memorial to friends and selves who are gone * New York Times Book Review *