I often wonder what makes a novel go viral and turn into mega-bestseller along the lines of Gone Girl or perhaps Girl on a Train which seems on the same kind of trajectory. In general these books have a few elements in common: a plot constructed like a mouse trap, some truly surprising twists, good writing, and complex characters. But what lifts up a single book among many worthies and turns it into the book everyone has to read? That’s the delicious, insolvable mystery of publishing.
Advance reviews indicate that Lili Anolik has what it takes to be one of these “it” novelists. With two starred reviews and comps to Donna Tartt, Marisha Pessl and even Gillian Flynn, this dark coming-of-age murder mystery might be poised to take off.
The bullet that snuffs out the life of 16-year-old wild child Nica Baker hits her family like a hollow-point, especially psychologically enmeshed big sister Grace, in this suspenseful, sad, and shattering first novel from Vanity Fair contributing editor Anolik….Grace just can’t let Nica go, repeatedly seeing, hearing, and talking with her during the grief-swamped, drug-muddled months that follow. When a fellow student’s suicide-confession officially closes the case, Grace doesn’t buy it. Deferring her enrollment at Williams, she sifts through the wreckage of their lives, ostensibly to figure out who really killed Nica, but, even more crucially, to find herself. As she starts to penetrate the myriad lies and secrets, the picture that emerges is far from pretty, with a lengthy list of suspects. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, Anolik’s debut will haunt you.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Insightful [and] complex …Anolik’s haunting debut is tough to put down and will stay with you for a long time. The author’s characters and tone recall Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or Kimberly Pauley’s Ask Me.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A young woman becomes obsessed with finding the truth behind her sister’s death in Anolik’s thrilling debut….Grace, who’s always been in Nica’s shadow, Grace, who’s always been high-achieving and risk-averse—finds herself consumed with a murder investigation of her own. What had Nica been doing in the weeks before she died, and more importantly, with whom? Why did she break up with her longtime boyfriend without explanation? Where did the tiny tattoo in her armpit come from? Slowly, Grace begins to untangle a web of secrets and betrayals deeper than she could have possibly imagined. In the process, she begins to find her own identity, an identity that is—for the first time—separate from her sister’s. As much as this is a crime drama, it’s also a coming-of-age novel. The plot is high-suspense, but it’s the strength of the characters—and the strength of Anolik’s hypnotic, unfussy prose—that gives the book its lasting force.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Great story, great twists, great insights — a brilliant start to a novelist’s career. Dark Rooms gallops out of gate but the ride is so smooth. Words are rose petals in Lili Anolik’s hands. What a privilege to get in on the ground floor with this exciting new writer. Already can’t wait for what’s next!”
— Michael Connelly
Dark Rooms (9780062345868) by Lili Anolik. $25.99 hardcover. 3/3/15 on sale.