Crown Books for Young Readers: Clean Getaway by Nic Stone

The Need

In the lean, relentless psychological thriller The Need, Helen Phillips (The Beautiful Bureaucrat) pushes maternal instincts to the brink of sanity. Home with her two small children while her husband is away on business, Molly scrambles to protect her kids from an intruder. Their cat-and-mouse game doesn't end, however, when she confronts the sinister figure wearing a deer mask. Rather, circumstances only become more unsettling as the interloper proves to be eerily familiar with the household.

Spliced between tense scenes at home are moments from Molly's work at an archeological dig. Neighbors have been riled up ever since their discovery of a Bible, ostensibly from the 1900s, with feminine pronouns for God. This is the cherry on top of a series of inscrutable discoveries, but of course the only one that garners hate mail. "Almost a decade of mind-bending plant-fossil finds," her colleague declares, "...and no one but us and a handful of other paleobotany dorks gave a damn about this site until now."

Phillips writes with urgency as The Need's disconcerting arcs close in on one another. The stakes climb ever higher as Molly negotiates the unprecedented circumstances upsetting her personal and professional lives, but deep within the emerging uncanny valley lie primal truths about motherhood and human instinct. A truly unforgettable work of fiction, The Need upends reality for a clearer understanding of what's too important to ignore. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness