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Year of the Horse: A Novel

Justin Allen

Overlook Hardcover, $18.95/hardcover

The Western novel may be a relic in the modern book trade, but the genre isn't completely dead to young adults, thanks to Year of the Horse. Part Zane Gray, part L. Frank Baum, this read delivers the ultimate dose of escapism, from its fantastical, episodic nature to its dime-novel flavor. Leading us through rhythmically paced exploits is a willful, but pleasantly predictable, band of friends on a journey to reach Silver City and solve a mystery. Cowboy magic and landscapes with names like Hell Mouth color the fictive West while American folk legends — ghost riders and the Yankee Ichabod Crane — fuel the plot. Charming and full of heart, Year of the Horse provides quaint reading, that, although brand-new, feels like a secret discovery from the dusty back shelf of a library. — Edie Adelstein

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The Return

Victoria Hislop

Harper, $14.99/paperback

The Return offers many positives: British author Victoria Hilsop is nothing but thorough in her fictional retelling of Spain's late 1930s civil war and the struggles of a family in upheaval, much a direct result of the military conflict. These historical elements are passionately contrasted with a present-day woman's journey into flamenco dancing as an escape from her own life. However, the novel also poses many challenges. You must be willing to suspend a lot of disbelief in order to follow multiple points-of-view, many blended paragraph to paragraph without care. And the plot, which begins in present day, takes its time roaming through history — so much so that I couldn't remember what had happened 250-odd pages earlier by the time I made it to the resolution. I wanted to love this book, but I ended up simply wishing for a tighter editor. — Kirsten Akens

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Che: A Graphic Biography

Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

Hill and Wang, $22/hardcover

Call this required reading for every rebellious teenager who's worn the T-shirt with no real grasp of communism or South and Latin American history. Beginning with the events already popularized in the film The Motorcycle Diaries (featuring Che Guevara as a leper-tending medical student) and moving quickly into Che's alliance with Fidel Castro and the taking of Cuba, Che pauses deliberately to look at earlier historic influences and key Cold War moments that affected the rebel's ideology. From there, it's a world-wind tour (Tanzania, Prague, Bolivia) battling imperialism and "the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America." (No wonder those angsty youth relate ...) Ultimately, Che amounts to a fine portrait of a passionate man and complex, mid-20th-century Pan-American politics. — Matthew Schniper

  • Year of the Horse: A Novel, The Return, Che: A Graphic Biography

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