The Girls by Emma Cline - As someone who is morbidly fascinated by cults and charismatic leaders, The Girls should be right up my alley. Evie is a lonely, bored teenager who finds herself weirdly obsessed with a girl she meets around town, Suzanne. They strike up an unlikely friendship and Suzanne invites Evie to the place she lives, which is essentially a commune on the outskirts of San Francisco. Evie tells the story as an adult, looking back on the tragedy that eventually took place. This book is inspired by the Manson Family and the Sharon Tate murder, but in this case, truth is stranger than fiction and I didn't think the concept of obsession, of total loyalty, of unwavering devotion came across in this book. And Evie as an adult seemed like an unformed character. Skip this one.
Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay - After A Head Full of Ghosts, I needed all the Paul Tremblay in my life I could find. Luckily, his newest novel had recently come out, so I dove right in. Elizabeth gets every parent's worst nightmare: a phone call in the middle of the night to tell her that her son is missing. In the following days, a huge search party turns up nothing, the police have no leads, and Tommy's friends are keeping secrets. What really happened that night in the woods? What secrets had Tommy himself been keeping? This was vaguely supernatural, but mostly preyed on our own darkest fears - abandonment, loss of a child, loss of a parent. Dark without being unrealistic.
The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories by Anthony Marra - A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was one of my absolutely favorite books in 2014, so again, I was seeking out more by the author. The Tsar of Love and Techno has many of the same themes, is beautifully written, and has richly developed characters. In fact, the same characters show up in multiple "stories", so much so that this read more like a novel to me. A censor spends his days erasing faces and bodies from photographs until he is stunned by a shot of a prima ballerina. That prima ballerina's granddaughter marries well and becomes a film actress, at least until her divorce. That film actress came from a small Siberian mining town where she was in love with a boy who was then sent to war. That soldier and his brother shared a love of mix tapes. This is worth a read.
Sex Object by Jessica Valenti - Even though it says so directly on the cover, I didn't know it was a memoir when I initially ordered it. So, that sort of changed my expectations of what I was getting into. Instead of being a sociological perspective on how women are sexualized, it is actually one woman's story of her own sexualization, her experiences with sexism and motherhood and love and drug use and feminism. Valenti is a smart and honest writer, not shying away from embarrassing stories or one that don't paint her in a flattering light. A good, smart, and quick read.