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The Incendiaries

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  100 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A powerful, darkly glittering novel about violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her
...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: July 31st 2018 by Riverhead Books
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  • The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon
    The Incendiaries
    by
    Release date: Jul 31, 2018
    In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable." --C ...more

    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 100 copies available, 24 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Jun 04 - Jun 29, 2018

    Countries available: US

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    Community Reviews

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    Jessica Woodbury
    Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
    I don't know if I can actually write a review of this book because all of my feelings about it (and there are so many) are extremely personal. My experience with this book is unlikely to be universal, but it's the only one I have to write about.

    It wouldn't be fair for me to start off with all of my own stuff that I bring to this book, so I'll start with the most objective review I can provide (which is admittedly not very objective for all the reasons below). This is an ambitious and impressive
    ...more
    Sarah
    Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: favorites
    10 out of 5 stars. Wow wow wow are we all discovering a talent in Ms. Kwon. The book is eerie, and unsettling, but also sweet and beautiful... and you read the story from the outside... then all at once a simple narrator change grounds everything, makes it a story you or I could be part of. The genius here is the author's ability to pull you in, then push you all the way out to be an observer, or vice versa. I sympathized with Phoebe until it was time to see her from a distance, which was clever ...more
    Jessica Sullivan
    This brief little novel takes on a powerful subject, and the result is eerie, sad and profound.

    Will meets Phoebe at an elite American college, and is immediately enamored of her. They both hide secret pains from their past, each longing to escape and fill voids—Will’s from the gradual loss of his religion and absence of God, Phoebe’s from the death of her mother.

    When Phoebe gets drawn into a religious cult, Will has a bad feeling about it from the start, but is unable to save her as she escalate
    ...more
    Lara Blackman
    Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Absolutely loved this one. It's a beautifully written, literary novel, but the darkness of the story and the writing create the kind of eerie atmosphere you'd find in the best psychological suspense. I almost never re-read, but might make an exception for this when everyone's talking about it this summer
    Jillian Doherty
    Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
    The company of character who reflect what so many of us felt growing up, surviving college and life’s misadventures.
    This emotional journey travels between three friends and the world that rotates around them; from NY to CA to China.

    The protagonists experiences the feeling we all know only too well – to have mediocre self reflections, to finally getting what you want in life to only have it all change.

    Phoebe, Will, and John share a gripping portrait of desire, faith, loss, and cross culture expe
    ...more
    Sara Batkie
    An impressively confident debut. It takes a little getting used to the fractured structure, and I'm not ultimately convinced that the sections from the cult leader's P.O.V. added anything to the narrative, especially once they got down to single sentences at the end. But Kwon has a remarkable command over her damaged characters, and while what they were doing to themselves and one another was often objectionable, I felt that I fully understood them. The complicated dynamic between Phoebe and Wil ...more
    Monet
    Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    I’m delighted to catch this writer at the beginning of her career. This debut novel is stunning, especially in its handling of characters I feel like I’d know if I saw them on the street.
    Madeline Partner
    May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    4.5 stars. Will update later w review! :)
    -

    The Incendiaries tells the stories of Will and Phoebe, their ill-fated romance, and the religious cult that begins to consume their relationship. Will and Phoebe are both college students at a prestigious university in a small New England town, and are soon drawn together during their freshman year. However, both are hiding important things about their past that will come out in ways they could not have imagined. After a religious cult appears in town, w
    ...more
    Christina Marroquin
    Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
    The blurb on the front says it all: "A God-haunted, willful, strange book written with a kind of savage elegance."

    I went back and forth between liking it and not. My dislike stemmed from my frustration at the character choices and my own bias against organized religion and its complicity in ruining lives as much as it saves.

    It was interesting getting this story from the point of view of someone who has struggled with faith and then struggles with loving someone who, although in obvious need of
    ...more
    Kristen Beverly
    May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Wow... I devoured this book today. I don’t know what I was expecting from this story, but it was so much more than I ever could have imagined. I related to so many more of Will’s thoughts than I would like to admit to. Beautifully and powerfully written. This book is everything that everyone is making it out to be!
    Emily
    May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Wow! R.O. Kwon is a darned good writer. This book reminds me of Samanta Schweblin’s FEVER DREAM in that it’s a quick, un-put-downable read that makes brilliant use of language. Kwon’s sentences are tight, and her characters are flawed and feel very real. I only wish it were longer!
    Vanessa Hua
    May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Stunning and haunting. The intensity of the language, the experimentation with form, the love and longing and pain of Phoebe and Will are unforgettable -- filling me with dread, and yet it was page turner. A must-read!
    Audrey
    Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
    Shelves: first-reads
    I liked this book but didn’t quite connect with the characters at all. I could appreciate the dichotomy between Phoebe and Will as well as the artistry of the writing itself. I’m not sure if the disconnect is from the story itself or from my own frame of mind.

    I received an arc of this book but all opinions are my own.
    Jamie
    Feb 04, 2018 added it
    Don't know what I think yet.
    Kate
    Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    I read the whole thing on two short plane rides yesterday. I loved it! Kwon's writing style is so simple yet evocative. I reread sentences frequently because they were so wonderfully constructed. Plotwise, I think the blurb is inaccurate in what it claims the book is about - so much of the book is told in flashbacks and reconstructions that Phoebe's disappearance really only takes place in the last 30 pages or so. This book is a delight to read - not a happy story, but a beautifully told one.
    Katy
    Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
    I can't make up my mind about this book. I absolutely love that R.O. Kwon chose to write about the intersection of Korean-Americans and religion juxtaposed with the intense feelings of loss stemming from what it feels like to lose your religion. There are such important and relatable themes that I'm thrilled to see take central focus in a novel. I did struggle to believe that Phoebe Lin could have made such a drastic change to descend into religion-based terrorism and had a difficult time sympat ...more
    Borce
    May 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
    I’ll start by saying the version I read is an arc so maybe a lot has changed or will change in publication, but I’m a bit confused by all the glowing reviews of this book. I kept looking to the back cover re-reading the description waiting for the story I’ve been promised to occur. Finally, with about 30 pages left it happens. Sort of. The bombing happens, true, and Will does look for Phoebe, for like a day. Most of the book is spent developing Will & Phoebe’s not so amazing relationship. I’ ...more
    Mike
    Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    R. O. Kwon's debut novel is an amazing literary achievement. The prose is confident, lyrical, haunting, and the characters are brilliantly realized. Kwon's story looks at so many things—religion, class, extremism, gender roles—but to me the central theme is the ways in which we form personal narratives, both how we attempt to invent ourselves and how we see (or fail to see) the others in our lives. I found the whole thing just riveting. Kwon is a major talent, and this book heralds a bright futu ...more
    Will
    May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
    “It’s a privilege to have loved: with each loss, I’ve gained practice in the divine.”
    jess
    May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Lucky enough to have gotten an ARC of this powerful debut novel from R. O. Kwon. This is such a well written book that grabs you from the start and doesn't let up until the end (which is probably why I read the whole thing in a day). It's a dark and complicated tale of grief, power, love, and vulnerability told through the alternating perspectives of the three main characters.

    While it ultimately left me with a general unease and a whole lot of questions, I loved Kwon's bold writing style and co
    ...more
    Sara Leonard
    Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Wow. This is a book about yearning and obsession, and when using a person to fill your own needs goes too far. Kwon explores the varying levels of loss, and how it can drive two incompatible people together, creating an illusion of love. The Incendiaries gives no answers, but leaves readers with many fascinating questions.
    Rachel Watkins
    Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
    It's normal to reinvent yourself when you go away to college. But it is healthy to erase events from your life that define you? Perhaps, if you're trying to shed the old you. Phoebe and Will'a freshman romance at Edwards University is hardly innocent or forthright. Both have secrets that fill the corners of their minds. There is a sense of dread in THE INCENDIARIES and grief plays a huge role.
    Rose Cronin-Jackman
    rated it really liked it
    Jun 01, 2018
    Ryan M
    rated it really liked it
    Mar 18, 2018
    Michael
    rated it it was amazing
    May 21, 2018
    Heather Orlando
    rated it liked it
    Apr 29, 2018
    Amanda
    rated it it was ok
    May 18, 2018
    Sue
    May 18, 2018 marked it as to-read
    "Novel about loss of belief"
    Lydia
    rated it it was amazing
    Dec 31, 2017
    j parsons
    rated it really liked it
    May 17, 2018
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    R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is forthcoming from Riverhead in July of 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee ...more
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