They live, they write, they love; we read. Powell’s pays homage to the time-honored tradition of authors marrying their own with our list of today’s top literary power couples.
Marlena is a bold and electric debut that caused me to reflect on my own shortcomings and angst as a teenage girl. Every page made me both love and hurt for these compelling characters. Bravo to Julie Buntin for this beautifully intimate case study of friendship, family, and self-worth — themes at the heart of every teenager's life. Recommended By Kate L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other's for decades.
Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, 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-blond 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, unshakable 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 oneself back from the brink.
"A novel that’s as invigorating and devastating as an intense teenage crush, Marlena is about the people we encounter in life — no matter how briefly — who leave a permanent mark. Julie Buntin’s stellar debut has the emotional sophistication of only the very best coming-of-age novels, so it’s no wonder it comes with a glowing blurb from Who Will Run the Frog Hospital author Lorrie Moore." Vulture, 25 of the Most Exciting Book Releases for 2017
"[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 (Starred Review)
"Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful, debut novelist Buntin's tale of the friendship between two girls in the woods of Northern Michigan makes coming-of-age stories feel both urgent and new.... Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory. Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Marlena is absolutely lacerating. The most accurate portrait I’ve read about angst, lust, boredom, and the blindness of youth. It isn’t merely a friendship chronicle, nor is it a profile of a doomed, beautiful girl. It’s the story of a haunting, about the ghosts that never release us and continue to define us. Julie Buntin’s command of her craft is so flawless you forget that it’s fiction. I binge-read Marlena – sick to my stomach, with equal parts fear and nostalgia – stunned that any of us made it out of our adolescence alive." Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter
"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
"The gifted young writer Julie Buntin has written a novel of deep and exquisite intelligence, humor, and riveting sensitivity. A terrific debut." Lorrie Moore
About the Author
Julie Buntin is from northern Michigan. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Electric Literature, and One Teen Story, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Marymount Manhattan College, and is the director of writing programs at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Marlena is her debut novel.