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Publisher's Summary

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life and define the other's for decades.

Everything about 15-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, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena's orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts - first drink, first cigarette, first kiss - while 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 to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin's Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

©2017 Julie Buntin (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Brilliant, Agonizing Portrait of a Young Woman

When first listening, I thought I would not be able to relate to Buntin's characters because I am so far beyond (in years,) in trying too figure out my teen years and because Buntin's antagonist is much more into drugs than anyone I ever knew. That character would be Marlena, a vibrantly limned but frenetic young woman who befriends and is befriended by a new, younger, neighbor, Cat.

Marlena is on the road to destruction and because of recent family transformations in Cat's life, Cat is drawn into Marlena's orbit of uncentered living -- which has few boundaries but much potential for dissolution.

In short, this is a well written book (told from Cat's viewpoint,) about what it's like to grow into adulthood when your best friend is spiraling into oblivion... while you are simultaneously dealing with the trials which just about every teen girl confront's about self esteem, "coolness" and body image. Not to mention how to relate meaningfully to guys.

Buntin is a very skillful and talented writer. Cat becomes very real and her observations are fully fleshed out, three dimensional and bring all her relationships to life.

As far as being drawn into the book...It seems everyone has a "Marlena" of some sort in their maturing, early years. Someone who pushes boundaries and doesn't care about consequences but whose core of "self" is somehow either so protected and sealed away because of prior abuse that they never let you really "know" them -- or their real self has been damaged into emptiness and you never think you can know them for who they are.

But through your friendship, you grow to love them, despite feeling like they are always trapped beyond you, beneath glass or ice.

This is a well written portrait of two young women and it will grab you... I promise.

PS The narration by Emma Galvin is perfect.

41 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Marlena

So like The Goldfinch but from a female character experience. Dark and beautiful. Not for everyone but I loved!

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Love this book

I requested this book to be on audible. So glad I did. It's a great coming of age story about friendship and addiction. Loved it!

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rochelle
  • Rockville, VA, United States
  • 10-27-17

Stunningly Beautiful Writing

Marlena is so much more than a coming-of-age novel. From the beginning, I was swept into Cat's story of friendship, family, connection, guilt and loss. Julie Buntin's prose is pure beauty which would be worth listening to as poetry, even if the story weren't as compelling as this one is. Expect emotional complexity with moments of euphoria and heartbreak, as occurs in real life. Rarely am I compelled to buy the book version of an audiobook, but I will with Marlena so I can read and re-read it and will gift it to those whom I think will love it. Thank you for making this an Audible deal of the day.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • RC
  • 10-26-17

Gritty, raw, good.

Gritty and bleak, but also hopeful. I liked the contrast between the grown-up Cat and the adolescent Cat who was enveloped in Marlena's world. That is, I liked reading of Cat's reflections on that brief time with Marlena, that so defined the rest of her life. The book was not mawkish. A good read (listen).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved It!

This book was very good and so was the narration. I'll be looking forward to another collaboration of theirs in hopefully the near future!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

It was pretty good

the narrator was hard to listen to at first, but I got used to her.

9 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

struggled to finish

the story never really grabbed me so I listen until the end but will probably never listen to again.

14 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Startling truthful

I have a creative writer friend I went to grad school with 5 years ago. She is always posting images of the books she’s reading, Marlena was one of them. I searched for it and gave it a listen. The performance of the reader was hard to get used to at first but I soon began to really get the feeling of being there and experiencing her first drink, her first crush, loss of innocence and yearning for love. I think if it would have been another voice I wouldn’t have been connected the same to my past (younger) self.
The definition of Michigan childhood to teen

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Terrible

This book was the worst! I can’t even finish it. Don’t bother wasting your time.