This is the novel I wanted The Girls to be. What Buntin's novel lacks in flair and fanaticism it makes up for in its shrewd and sympathetic examination of the arrogance and exaggerated angst that makes adolescence such an electrifying study.— From Wesley
“I can't believe this is a debut novel: the writing is so assured; the prose so exquisite. Buntin is a master of word choice, and every sentence felt deliberate and precise. I quickly got sucked into this story about a pair of teenage girls, one doomed, one not. It was a quick read, but one I found myself lingering over. I'd recommend Marlena to fans of Megan Abbott's dark, twisty books about girlhood - this is a similarly fierce read!”
— Lauren Peugh (E), Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
A National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize Finalist
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, BuzzFeed, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, NPR, NYLON, Huffington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Barnes & Noble
Chosen for the Book of the Month Club, Nylon Book Club, and Belletrist Book Club
Named an Indie Next Pick and a Barnes and Noble Discover Pick
The story of two girls and the wild year that will cost one her life, and define the other's for decades
Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat's new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat is quickly drawn into Marlena's orbit and as she catalogues a litany of firsts--first drink, first cigarette, first kiss, first pill--Marlena's habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try again to move on, even as the memory of Marlena calls her back.
Told in a haunting dialogue between past and present, Marlena is an unforgettable story of the friendships that shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.