THE LOCAL NEWS by Miriam Gershow (Spiegel & Grau). You'd think a 15-year-old girl would be devastated if her older brother suddenly disappeared without a trace. Not Lydia Pasternak. She never really liked her bro, a dumb jock who picked on her and called her Titless Wonder. Lydia's almost glad he's gone, especially since his disappearance has made the nerdy brainiac newly popular. Beneath this darkly humorous tale of loss is a keen look at the painfully stratified world of high school, and a reminder that just because we're supposed to feel sad doesn't mean we always do. —Eileen Conlan

AMERICAN RUST by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau). Two 18-year-olds in rural Pennsylvania accidentally kill a vagrant, panic, and split the scene. One of them, whiz-kid Isaac, flees by freight-hopping across the Rust Belt, while his friend Poe lands in a high-security lockdown. The characters in Meyer's debut novel — including the girl who "got out" by marrying money — aren't busting any archetypes. But Rust is an engrossing drama, and descriptions of hardscrabble small-town life, like factories reclaimed by the forests that predated them, are a salient reminder of the ruthlessness of our economy. —Lauren Iannotti

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