The Incendiaries

The Incendiaries

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, [2018]
ISBN: 9780735213890
Branch Call Number: F KWON
Characteristics: 214 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

What would you do if your friend got sucked into a cult and began to commit terrible acts? This intense story of two best friends away at college will have you turning pages late into the night.

A young Korean-American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

From the critics

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Jan 27, 2020

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon is one of those style-reads. The plot is engaging but an equal player in this story is the delivery. It's got a 'punchy' narration and is not 'flowery' if you understand my meaning. The chapters are short, the energy is up, and none of this is a bad thing by any stretch. You'll know if it's your kind of book or not by the first few chapters.

May 19, 2019

For a book to resonate with me, I need characters with whom I can make a connection. I don’t want them to be like me, but I have to car about them. I never could care about any of the characters in this story which takes place on a private college campus. Mainly told by the boyfriend of the central character, Phoebe, I just kept wanting to tell him to move on with his life or in other words to GROW UP.

Mar 15, 2019

New & Noteworthy BC - April 2018

Jan 10, 2019

Like the previous commentator, I too wanted to like Korean-born, American-based R.O. Kwon's debut novel. I'd read good things about it and was really looking forward to reading it. It'd be one thing if it were merely bad, but it has good elements and themes and an interesting point of view, but. . .it just never comes together. There's a love story, religious fanaticism, cults, and terrorism and none of them really cohere. Still, there's enough in here to make it worth at least a quick read and she does seem like a young writer worth watching.

Dec 14, 2018

I really wanted to like this, but it is in many ways a cheap knockoff of Donna Tartt's much better novel - The Secret History. It has plenty of literary flourishes to keep critics happy, but at its core it is duplicative and shallow, grazing the surface of its characters and moving on to the next shiny thing.

Nov 14, 2018

I was not impressed by this, I found the plot really slow and the characters unrelatable, and I just wasn't into it.

Nov 07, 2018

This is, as promised by the reviews on the back, a book that builds slowly. The first half at least feels rote, often seeming to lean in to the cliche of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, and that goes on long enough to begin to annoy. However, when the intentionality behind it is revealed it is masterfully done, so hang in there if you can. The characters are beautifully flawed; they are characters who do horrible, unconscionable things and yet remain uncomfortably relatable. The prose borders on poetic, and the setting is--as someone who recently graduated a college eerily similar to the one described--completely and fully believable. I am particularly entranced by the way the author plays with perspective, managing a kind of three-in-one point of view the likes of which I have never seen before.

I'm glad I read this book. It was an engaging experience that prompted a lot of philosophical reflection on religion, on what can be forgiven, on the root of 'evil', and more than anything else on loneliness. It also did cool things with the english language and literature as a form that are that kind of exciting version of inspiring that makes the reader want to write. Simultaneously, it was not a fun book to read and I would not read it again.

SPOILER ALERT: the POV character is a rapist and there are graphic depictions of intimate partner violence. This is a pretty big spoiler and I apologize, but, especially since the writing and the unfolding of the plot is done so well, this could be seriously distressing to some readers.

Nov 01, 2018

Empty boring college age folks doing empty boring college age things.
Book is short and the writing moves it along.
However, the characters are not really interesting and at page 100 after many tedious activities (i.e. went to Cape Cod, went to China, went to New York City, confessed ) I put the book down.

bookycakes Aug 06, 2018

I don't know where the reviewers got all their detailed information from. This is literary fiction at its most irritating and frustrating.
It’s all nonsense.
I suppose they want you to be sucked into the strange, empty white space where more words belong and feel like you’re in a fog, searching without end for answers in a disconcerting story that rambles and switches gears over and over. I've read books that explore similar themes without romanticizing it to the point of being unreadable, weird and wonderful novels that actually DO have dazzling prose that isn't described as such just because the sentences are chopped to bits.

Pass on this one and ask me if you want a novel that will feel strange and wonderful instead of just confusing.


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