Small but mighty book reviews

Welcome to another instalment of our Micro Review series!  

At Glass, we love hearing your thoughts on the books, shows, new music, and all those other good things you’re enjoying (or passionately hating). This series delivers bite sized reviews, typically under 300 words, which means we can bring you more student opinions! 

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Hideout by Louisa Luna
Reviewed by Rebecca Jacobson 

Hideout is a slow burn mystery thriller but soon enough, you’ll be turning through the pages quickly. This is Louisa Luna’s third novel featuring Alice Vega and Max Caplan, but it’s a great read as a standalone.   

University star kicker Zeb Williams has been missing for almost 40 years. After meeting her client, private investigator Vega lands in the small town of Ilona that is being troubled by a white-nationalist group. Vega’s appearance in town and interrogations of locals make her more enemies than allies. She knows that somebody had to see Zeb Williams before he left town – if he ever did. From infiltration to honesty, Luna will have you thinking you know the end of Vega’s story, but I advise you to keep the bigger picture in mind.   

In this vivid description of small-town America, Hideout incorporates action, crime, and a little romance, and covers a wide range of topics including racism, sexism, and violence. Vega isn’t like any character I’ve come across in this genre: she’s abrupt, nonchalant, cunning, unsuspecting, and deeply complex. However, Caplan’s realistic relationship with his daughter Nell, became one of my favourite parts of Hideout. Filled with suspense, red herrings, and intriguing characters, Hideout is the perfect novel to settle down with on a rainy day.   

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The Wonderful Thing About Phoenix Rose by Josephine Moon
Reviewed by Celine Lindeque 

The Wonderful Thing About Phoenix Rose is an uplifting novel infused with heart on every page. Josephine Moon warmly invites you into the increasingly turbulent life of autistic teacher Phoenix Rose. When she receives a cry for help from a dying online friend who needs assistance rehoming her precious pets, Phoenix rises to the challenge. Together with Lily, a young autistic woman discovering her independence, they begin their adventure traversing the eastern coast of Australia – Tasmania to Brisbane – with one grumpy dog, two cats, four chickens, and a pony in tow.  

The start of the book felt coincidental, with many things going wrong before quickly fitting back into place. The remainder of the book, however, was filled with enough mayhem and adventure to keep you turning the page. 

I loved how the story provides a gentle introduction to autism in women for the unacquainted, and a highly relatable narrative for those who are. The stereotypes surrounding women with autism (“you don’t look autistic” or “only boys have autism”) are dismantled piece by piece and replaced with lived experiences illustrated through Phoenix, Lily, and the carousel of secondary neurodivergent characters. The hidden battles autists can face, such as unaccommodating and painfully ableist bosses or childhood abuse by parents with warped misunderstandings of autism, are handled by the author with care, compassion, and grace. Additionally, the novel refreshingly beams a spotlight on overlooked autistic traits like a strong sense of justice, loyalty, and empathy.   

Overall, this book is a joyful read that clearly highlights that when you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. It joins the ever-growing list of #ActuallyAutistic novels by Australian authors. For more, check out: Social Queue and Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr, and Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde.  

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Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Reviewed by Kasey Delben  

Hello Beautiful will hit you right in the feels if you’ve ever had family, lost family, loved family, fought with family, or missed family. With an emotionally intimate, yet expansive, narrative voice, Ann Napolitano chronicles the lives of basketballer William Waters and four Italian-American sisters from their youth to their forties, as they experience growth, grief, separation, illness, and love. 

Julia, the eldest Padavano sister, is firmly at the helm of her life and the sisters’ quartet. When she meets William in college, whose mild-tempered solemnity masks a complex inner world, she decides he is the key to the future she’s mapped for herself. William is enveloped into the messy warmth of the Padavano family – an overwhelming contrast to the acute loneliness of his childhood. William is loved by all the Padavanos, yet is ultimately the catalyst for the affair that shatters the sisters’ unconditional closeness.   

Like a modern rendition of Little Women, the novel spans the latter half of the 20th century and early 2000’s in America. The women’s choices remind us of their changing socio-cultural landscape, propelling them further from the nest their mother constructed for them. 

Every character in this book is etched and coloured carefully, even as the cast expands, adding friends, children, mentors, and partners along the way. The sisters’ goals and personalities differ, yet certain quirks remind us constantly of their inseparable youth. The characters’ flaws and mistakes are vivid, but Napolitano’s skilful rendering of perspective reveals the delicate balance of circumstance, emotion, and agency that underpins every choice.  

Hello Beautiful reminds us not to take any kind of love for granted. It shows us that grief and joy are not mutually exclusive, but interdependent.  

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