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FRIENDS LIKE THESE by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury £12.99, 320pp)

FRIENDS LIKE THESE 

by Meg Rosoff (Bloomsbury £12.99, 320pp) 

There’s a touch of The Bell Jar to this 1980s New York-set novel. Wannabe journalist Beth wins a prestigious internship on a national newspaper. Arriving in the heat of a Big Apple summer, she finds a cheap flat full of cockroaches and strange people. 

When privileged Edie, a fellow intern, invites Beth to share her posh apartment, she jumps at the chance. But uptown life turns out to have its own problems; mercurial Edie being the main one. 

Rosoff is a terrific writer, wry and spare, and this engaging read about friendship, work, love and how to survive them would be enjoyed by a teen as much as an adult. My favourite bit was the gritty city atmosphere. 

MEREDITH, ALONE 

by Claire Alexander (Michael Joseph £14.99, 368pp) 

This affecting, absorbing debut about an agoraphobic sociophobe reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. While less acerbic, Meredith shares Eleanor’s mother issues and there is the same slow release of the horrors of the past. 

As the novel opens, our heroine hasn’t left her flat for several years and fills the time baking cakes, tending her cat and WFH-ing. Two crucial contacts look set to make the breakthrough: charity worker Tom and online friend Celeste. But sister Fee links back to a difficult childhood and some terrible adult experiences too. Can Meredith overcome her demons, open her door and welcome the world? 

PAPER CUP by Karen Campbell (Canongate £14.99, 336pp)

PAPER CUP 

by Karen Campbell (Canongate £14.99, 336pp)

Kelly’s a homeless ex-offender with alcohol and drug problems. She’s on a park bench in the rain when a drunk hen-party bride gives her money. But among the coins, by mistake, is a diamond engagement ring. Kelly decides to do a good thing and return the ring to the bride in time for the wedding. A journey down Scotland’s East coast ensues, not only geographical but through the soul of the place, and through Kelly’s troubled past. 

She encounters people both good and bad, as well as a companion dog and, as she swings by ancient pilgrim sites, it all feels more than a little religious. A rough romance written in rich language and a truly original, brilliant novel. 

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