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The Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon

The Incendiaries: A Novel (original 2018; edition 2018)

by R. O. Kwon (Author)

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2331273,541 (3.44)18
Title:The Incendiaries: A Novel
Authors:R. O. Kwon (Author)
Info:Riverhead Books (2018), Edition: First Edition, 224 pages
Collections:Books I've Read

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The incendiaries by R. O. Kwon (2018)

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Due out this coming Tuesday, July 31st. Pre-order through your local bookstore's website, or just, you know, go there.

R.O. Kwon's 'The Incendiaries' is a quick, gripping novel about identity and faith. The plot is an attempt by college student Will Kendall to rationalize his former girlfriend's involvement in a terrorist group. We know what is going to happen, but the reader is still drawn into Will's story.

Will meets Phoebe Lin early on in their college career, and is dazzled by her, but ultimately unable to prevent her recruitment by a charismatic former student named John Leal into a new age club. A scholarship student, he has felt compelled to manufacture his own identity and cannot respond until its too late.

Kwon challenges the reader to confront extremism and religious and racial identities by presenting John and Phoebe's stories as well as Will's before the novel runs its course. A surprising book, I'll be interested in hearing other people's reactions. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 21, 2019 |
I was really excited about this small book because of the cover and that it was longlisted, however it fell flat for me. The writing style was alright, the topics included cults, domestic terrorism, love, loss, and so much more but I wasn’t a fan of the characters (underdeveloped). I was bored and it won’t be a book I shall be keeping. ( )
  Lauranthalas | Feb 4, 2019 |
Troubled Phoebe and impoverished former evangelical Will, students at prestigious Edwards College, are drawn into a mysterious cult. Violence erupts. This lifeless, implausible tale does not live up to the hype. ( )
  akblanchard | Jan 27, 2019 |
This was my book club's selection for January; I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise, but it turned out not to be terrible. High praise, eh?

The story revolves around Will, who was once a fervent evangelical Christian but has lost his faith, and Phoebe, a beautiful and troubled former piano prodigy. They meet in college, and around the same time, Phoebe falls under the influence of John Leal, a cultish figure who plays on people's weaknesses. The novel chronicles the push and pull of Will and Phoebe's relationship, and Will's increasing concern over John Leal's influence. It is narrated by Will, and he's a classic unreliable narrator. The story is well-paced and intriguing but has some major flaws, one of which is that John Leal is not developed enough for the reader to understand his charisma and ability to draw people in. There were also some odd plot holes and narrative choices that weakened an otherwise interesting story. But since it is a debut novel, I would be willing to give Kwon's next effort a whirl, because her writing is (mostly) strong, and she is obviously interested in playing with big ideas. ( )
  katiekrug | Jan 23, 2019 |
Something about this book didn't quite work for me. It was oddly paced and the John Leal sections stuck out for me. That being said, Kwon does a good job of writing Will as a flawed narrator that by the end I really hated. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment but it's not. His journey from nice guy to despicable is subtle at first then all at once; really unexpected. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The Incendiaries is a book of careful feints – the emphases in the story never fall where you expect, but Kwon is always in total control.
The stylish writing and interesting subject matter are lost in a plodding narrative that feels like a paint-by-numbers attempt at Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
Religious extremism, race, college rape, casual misogyny, North Korea, and abortion are all here in just over 200 pages. The sheer density of hot-button concerns could easily feel sensational, but the text’s immediacy feels effortless and necessary.
Big themes of religion, identity, and death swirl through the pages of The Incendiaries, but Kwon keeps her narrative grounded in the very human experiences of the young couple.
Its eerie, sombre power is more a product of what it doesn’t explain than of what it does. It’s the rare depiction of belief that doesn’t kill the thing it aspires to by trying too hard.
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At the bottom of everything there is the hallelujah.

-Clarice Lispector, 'Água Viva'
To Clara Kwon and Young Kwon
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They'd have gathered on a rooftop in Noxhurst to watch the explosion.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A young Korean-American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea and then disappears, leading a fellow student into an obsessive search for her.

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