This is one of the best female coming of age stories I've read in recent years. Set in northern Michigan, beyond the postcard gloss of idyllic tourist towns, poverty, neglect and boredom are as common as the stark beauty of the landscape. Authentic and precise, this memory piece is a reckoning; directly exploring the tropes of doomed beauty, the giddy highs of teenage rebellion and the grinding progression of addiction. --Toni— From Staff Favorites List
April 2017 Indie Next List
“I can't believe this is a debut novel: the writing is so assured; the prose so exquisite. Buntin is a master of word choice, and every sentence felt deliberate and precise. I quickly got sucked into this story about a pair of teenage girls, one doomed, one not. It was a quick read, but one I found myself lingering over. I'd recommend Marlena to fans of Megan Abbott's dark, twisty books about girlhood - this is a similarly fierce read!”
— Lauren Peugh (E), Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
Book of the Month Club
Indie Next Pick
Nylon's Debut Book Club Pick
Barnes and Noble Discover Pick
The story of two girls and the wild 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 is quickly drawn into Marlena's orbit and as she catalogues a litany of firsts--first drink, first cigarette, first kiss, first pill--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 again to move on, even as the memory of Marlena calls her back.
Told in a haunting dialogue between past and present, Marlena is an unforgettable story of the friendships that shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.
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.