With each passing year, it seems more and more that publishing front-loads its calendar with quality works of fiction and nonfiction, to the extent that the end-of-the-year literary blockbuster model — publishing’s version of Oscar season — means less. This March, in particular, will see the publication of sure-to-be-discussed nonfiction books, like Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies; likely lit nonfiction sleeper hits, like A Murder Over a Girl; and a run of emotionally and intellectually demanding fictions by young writers who are coming into their prime — the works of Helen Oyeyemi, Danielle Dutton, and Karan Mahajan come immediately to mind. If you’ve been asleep on books so far this year, it’s time to wake up.
Ken Corbett — A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High (March 1, Henry Holt)
In 2008, at a junior high school in California, a white youth shot and killed fifteen-year-old Larry King, a brown student who was in the early stages of identifying as Leticia. Ken Corbett, a clinical assistant professor at NYU, flew there to attend the trial, and his resulting study, an unsettling book of clear-eyed empathy, one praised by Tony Kushner and Judith Butler, tells the story that our failing legal system and dehumanized media refused to tell.