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Book preview: Spring literature releases bloom with romance, adventure and social criticism

Nikole Liang / Daily Bruin

By Sanjana Chadive, Harbaksh Kaur, and Dannela Lagrimas

April 7, 2023 6:57 p.m.

As winter winds give way to spring blossoms, new books are flowering on shelves. The season’s latest literature welcomes readers into pages blooming with thrilling adventures, touching rom-coms and thought-provoking social commentary.

Read on for Daily Bruin’s springtime reading recommendations.

(Courtesy of Penguin Random House)
Ling Ling Huang’s debut novel will take readers into a world consumed by elitism and perfectionism. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

“Natural Beauty” by Ling Ling Huang

Ling Ling Huang is uncovering the sinister side of beauty and wellness.

Released on Tuesday, Huang’s debut novel, “Natural Beauty,” follows an unnamed young musician immensely talented in classical piano. When an unfortunate series of events forces her to abandon her dreams and find a job at a high-end beauty and wellness store, she is immediately thrust into a community of uptight elitist people. From there, she delves into an obsessive relationship with her boss’s niece and falls into a world of privilege and beauty.

In “Natural Beauty,” Huang aims to show the distorted perception of the beauty and wellness industry and how it preys on young, impressionable women. She also explores female friendships and their darker sides when formed under psychological trauma. For those who love intense female-led tales, Huang promises to deliver a sinisterly delightful debut novel with conniving characters and toxic relationships.

Readers will be haunted by this psychological fiction as they uncover how ugly beauty can be.

Harbaksh Kaur

[Related: Q&A: Bruin alumnus Diane Marie Brown discusses magic, family amid release of her novel]

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
The most recent romantic comedy book from Emily Henry, “Happy Place” follows a former couple who pretend to remain together for their friends’ sake. (Courtesy of Penguin Random House)

“Happy Place” by Emily Henry

Summer is starting early with Emily Henry’s latest romance.

“Happy Place,” which releases April 25, follows Harriet and Wyn, an estranged couple who pretend to remain together for their college friend group’s final weeklong getaway to Maine. Alternating between the past and the present, readers will witness the characters’ decade-long relationship blossom and wither. However, as Harriet and Wyn spend more time together, they begin to question whether or not they’ve truly fallen out of love.

In the past, Henry has received widespread acclaim for her ability to tactfully balance romance with more serious subject matters. Her 2020 novel “Beach Read,” for example, features the protagonist grappling with the death of her father and the recent discovery that he was unfaithful to her mother for years. Additionally, throughout Henry’s most recent work, “Book Lovers,” the protagonist deliberates her relationship with her younger sister as they take on two different paths in life. In spite of the obstacles Henry’s characters undergo, they ultimately find their happy ending.

Like Henry’s previous novels, “Happy Place” is sure to reap tears of sadness and joy.

-Sanjana Chadive

(Courtesy of Disney Publishing Group)
“The Sun and the Star” expands upon Rick Riordan’s famed “Percy Jackson” universe, this time following Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades, as he travels to the Ancient Greek equivalent of Hell alongside his boyfriend. (Courtesy of Disney Publishing Group)

“The Sun and the Star” by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

New and returning characters alike will shine in “The Sun and the Star.”

The newest installment in Rick Riordan’s sprawling “Percy Jackson” mythological universe will land on shelves May 2. The standalone story stars Nico di Angelo, the powerful son of Hades, and his boyfriend Will Solace, the son of Apollo, both of whom were introduced in the original series. As they venture into the treacherous underworld of Tartarus to rescue a former enemy-turned-ally, both Will and Nico’s demigod skills and their relationship will be put to the test.

While the story follows familiar characters and ancient Greco-Roman settings, the book brings a new perspective with the addition of Mark Oshiro as co-author in order to faithfully tell Nico and Will’s love story. Oshiro, who identifies as queer and non-binary, has written several young adult and middle-grade stories centered around queer characters, including “Anger is a Gift” and “The Insiders.” In inviting Oshiro to help steer the ship, Riordan’s stories will resonate with all readers as he continues to reinvent classic tales of heroism for the modern era.

Audiences of all ages will enjoy following the demigods as they learn what it means to be a light in the dark.

-Dannela Lagrimas

[Related: Second Take: Uncovering the washed-out, white-centered world of BookTok]

(Courtesy of HarperCollins)
“Yellowface” examines the consequences of a white author claiming an Asian author’s story as her own. R. F. Kuang continues to explore social themes in this novel, utilizing her sharp writing voice to dive into issues of diversity and representation. (Courtesy of HarperCollins)

“Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang

R.F. Kuang is ready to unmask the truth behind the publishing industry.

Set to hit bookstores May 16, “Yellowface” is the story of June Hayward, an aspiring author struggling to get published. When critical darling Athena Liu dies in a freak accident, Hayward, a white woman, steals her promising manuscript about Chinese laborers in World War I and credits herself as the writer. Through dark humor, Kuang’s satire aims to criticize the overwhelmingly white publishing industry and its suppression of marginalized voices.

Kuang is no stranger to challenging her readers’ perspectives. In her previous works, “The Poppy War” trilogy and “Babel,” she wields the fantastical elements in these texts as a tool to comment on themes of racism and colonialism in the real world. Although “Yellowface” is Kuang’s first contemporary novel, it seemingly aims to criticize similar institutions of power.

After finishing “Yellowface,” readers will question whether some stories can be told, no matter the storyteller.

-Sanjana Chadive

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Dannela Lagrimas | Lifestyle editor
Lagrimas is the 2022-2023 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2021-2022. She is also a second-year communication and political science student from Temecula, California.
Lagrimas is the 2022-2023 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2021-2022. She is also a second-year communication and political science student from Temecula, California.
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