By Leah Greenblatt
July 06, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
want, the party upstairs

Want, by Lynn Steger Strong

Want is a constant state for the largely nameless narrator of Lynn Steger Strong's spare, cool-toned second novel. There is the Brooklyn shoebox she and her woodworker husband can hardly afford; the literature Ph.D. curdled into a thankless series of adjunct teaching jobs; and most of all, maybe, the elusive figure of the best friend she fell out with nearly a decade before.

Strong's unadorned prose aptly captures a certain kind of queasy millennial unease, though its very plainness can also place a pane of glass between her voice and the reader; a diary of desire, once removed. B

The Party Upstairs, by Lee Conell

Brought up side by side in the same Upper West Side apartment building, childhood friends Ruby and Caroline have both boomeranged home after college, two Gen Y kids still in search of a purpose. But there's a fundamental difference: Ruby is the super's daughter, a product of basements and boiler rooms; Caroline floats far above in the penthouse.

Like so many social chroniclers before her, Lee Conell has a keen eye for the grand delusions and small daily hypocrisies of a "classless" America; if her take isn't quite a revelation, it's still brisk, canny fun — an upstairs-downstairs for the modern age. B+

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