'Tis the season for celebrity book recommendations, and one of my favorite famous readers, Emma Roberts, has a seriously good suggestion for the last few weeks of your poolside reading: The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwan.
Let me get you up to speed: Emma Roberts manages an online book club, Belletrist, along with Karah Preiss. Each month, the two voracious readers select a new book to read, discuss, and celebrate with their online communities on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
This August, Roberts and Preiss want you to read The Incendiaries, the stunning debut novel from R.O. Kwon that everyone has been talking about all year. It just came out in July, but the book has already earned a truly wild amount of praise from New Yorker, New York Times (Kwon was named one of the four writers to watch this summer), Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and heck, even Bustle.
So what's it about anyway? Glad you asked. The book follows two college students — glamorous Phoebe Lin and misfit Will Kendall — who meet in their first month at a prestigious university and quickly fall in love. Phoebe may seem like the It Girl, but behind her carefully curated outer appearance is a deep well of guilt and grief over her mother's death. Eventually, she's drawn into an extremist cult led a mysterious man named John Leal. So as Phoebe falls deeper and deeper into the cult, Will — a former fundamentalist Christian — becomes more and more obsessed with the idea of saving her from herself and the religious extremism he fought so hard to escape.
In an interview with R.O. Kwon, Bustle writer E. Ce Miller describes The Incendiaries as "a fierce and clobbering debut."
While the novel is certainly one about first love in all its messy, complicated glory, it is more strikingly a novel about the redeeming —and restricting — nature of religion and faith. Kwon tells Bustle much of this was inspired by her own experiences growing into religion — and growing out of it.
"I thought it would be wonderful to just, you know, sit in silence for the rest of my life, contemplating a glorious Lord," she says, in the interview with Miller. "As for the ache of that loss — goodness, yes. I feel the pain of that absence every day. This doesn’t mean I’m sad all the time — I’m often joyful, too! I love joy. I seek it out. But His absence is an ongoing presence, as omnipresent as I used to believe He was. I can’t stop longing for what I’ve lost, and sometimes it feels as though I’ve had to learn to shape my entire life around the vast hole of His nonbeing.”
If you haven't had a chance to pick up one of the buzziest novels of summer, take Emma Roberts' — and my — word for it: you can't miss The Incendiaries.